Japan Air training employees with Microsoft HoloLens
Tue 12 Jul 2016
Japan Airlines is piloting two new training programs featuring the Microsoft HoloLens. The first allows flight crew trainees access to a holographic flight simulator, to train them for promotion to co-pilot. Another provides virtual training for engineers and mechanics, providing access to virtual aircraft engines to hone their diagnostic and repair skills.
The new training program allows trainee pilots access to a 3D simulation of a cockpit, and trainee engineers access to a 3D engine. Personnel with ambitions to become pilots traditionally engage in 2D training, using videos and printouts of instruments and switches as part of their initial training. The HoloLens allows them to work with a 3D representation of a cockpit, in a detailed hologram with devices and switches that they can operate through a number of simulations. The HoloLens provides the trainees with visual and voice guidance throughout the process.
Koji Hayamizu, senior director of Japan Airline’s Products and Service Administration, noted a significant advantage of 3D learning for trainees. The flight crews’ experiences with the HoloLens will help to change “intellectual memory to muscle memory.” He went on to say, “We believe that HoloLens can contribute to the safety of our business, which is the most important criteria for airlines.”
The HoloLens helps to eliminate complicated scheduling and access issues for mechanics and engineers. It takes an enormous amount of effort and coordination to make planes available for mechanic trainees to practice on; involving scheduling trainees, hangar time, and complicated preparation tasks like cowling, where the front of the plane is removed to reveal the engine. Using the HoloLens gives the trainees a chance to practice on a 3D version of an engine that “looks real, in front of you,” Hayamizu says. “Mechanics can learn an engine structure by extracting important parts with the simulation,” allowing them to study and to practice their skills without the scheduling issues involved with live training, and giving them hands-on practice unavailable with 2D learning. He also said that he believes that one day, “we can bring the whole aircraft into the classroom” using HoloLens – not merely the engine.
Product differentiation is key to remain competitive in the airline industry, particularly with the growth of low-cost providers. Japan Airlines has been active on that front, with the complete overhaul of their website revealed in April, which was focused on providing a stress-free customer experience; followed by the May announcement that they would be using a team of gourmet chefs to design the menu for their inflight meals. Hayamizu stressed the importance of differentiation for full-service carriers like Japan Airlines, stating the need to provide “fresh and impressive services.”