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Advanced Engineering 2021

NEC Birmingham(B40 1NT)

03/11/2021 - 04/11/2021

Join us in our 12th and most important edition to date, as we invite engineers and management from all (more)

Drives help reduce energy usage on flight simulators

The latest variable speed drive technology from Parker Hannifin is being used by British Airways to improve the efficiency and reliability of its flight cabin simulators.

By enabling BA flight cabin simulators' hydraulic control systems to be powered only when needed, variable speed drives are cutting energy consumption by 95%, in addition to extending maintenance intervals and service life considerably. The two British Airways flight cabin simulators, one based on a Boeing 737 and the other a 747 passenger cabin, are used by the airline for essential cabin crew training. The ability to simulate various incidents allows trainee crews to practice safety procedures and emergency drills in a realistic setting, preparing them for real life situations. With thousands of crew members training each year, the simulators are in high demand, making it essential they are available for use 24/7.

The cabin area in each of the simulators is a life-size representation of a section of a real aircraft, complete with seats, overhead lockers, and all other fixtures and fittings. The 747 simulator is static, with doors that are hydraulically operated in exactly the same way as on a real aircraft. In addition to hydraulic doors, the 737 version is mounted on a large hydraulic rig, which controls the rise, tilt, and shake of the simulator. This system can move the cabin forwards, backwards and side to side, simulating flight conditions, such as turbulence.

Both simulators are controlled from a single hydraulic control system located in a small external plant room, with the power output typically split 30% to the 747 rig and 70% to the 737 if both are in use simultaneously. Previously, two separate pumps and motors in the hydraulics system had to be constantly run at 100% speed, leading to high energy costs and significant wear and tear on the system. To remedy this problem, BA approached Parker SSD for a more efficient solution.

Modified control system
Parker worked closely with BA and Trend Control Systems to modify the hydraulic system using the latest drive and control technology. The improved system combined a Parker AC variable speed drive with a Trend controller and Parker accumulators and valves. This set up would allow the hydraulic system to be driven only when needed, and therefore reduce energy consumption considerably.

The Parker SSD 650v AC drive was ideal for the application as it offered a flexible, easy to use solution that would provide dependable performance over a long service life, and therefore maximise the return on BA's investment. The drive makes setting up complex open-loop AC motor control systems simple and fast, with pre-programmed options and a user-friendly interface. Additionally, the compact dimensions of the unit would allow BA to make the most efficient use of space in the simulation area.

Once installed, the new system had a noticeable effect on energy consumption. Dennis Doody, senior engineering technician for BA, comments: "The combination of the Parker SSD drive and the Trend Controller has allowed us to use the system in a much more efficient way, cutting overall energy costs by as much as 95%, from 360kW/day to just 21kW/day. As the operating conditions are now much more stable, and the system isn't being driven flat out all the time, we are seeing a reduction in the need for maintenance, which is lowering our costs still further."
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