Japan Airlines (JAL) has completed a trial for using virtual reality (VR) to train its maintenance engineers on Embraer E170 and E190 aircraft. The trial, which ran from July through early September of this year, aimed to find out whether a realistic and immersive VR learning environment could improve the skills of mechanics.
According to JAL, the decision to test VR for training came about because of reduced hands-on training opportunities with actual aircraft, since advancements in aircraft technology have improved their reliability. The airline wanted to find a solution for mechanics to gain experience even when aircraft were not available at the hangar.
The trial was led by the JAL Innovation Lab, which was created in April 2018 to discover untapped business opportunities. JAL and Toshiba Systems Technologies developed the VR program and the carrier’s maintenance instructors designed the training environment based on their experience with the aircraft types.
The VR program simulates an engine run-up scenario, including actual cockpit indicators and sounds. JAL says the VR environment enables maintenance engineers to learn the engine run-up procedure in a realistic environment and gives experienced mechanics the opportunity to test their knowledge and identify skills areas that could be improved.
JAL says it is currently receiving feedback from applicable staff that took part in the program and assessing results, but initial feedback has been positive in terms of improving proficiency with maintenance skills. Once trial results have been fully assessed, JAL says it may consider officially incorporating VR into its maintenance training. Depending on the results of the trial, the airline may also consider developing programs for other aircraft types or maintenance tasks.