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Price of Full Motion Simulators

Posted: Sun Jun 06, 2021 3:05 pm
by Trimeresurus
We all know that they are one of the most expensive tools used in the industry, after the airplane itself.(In case of used old aircraft, like 737 classics, their sim can be more expensive than the plane too!)

But how come? I am not a corporate manager myself so my knowledge comes from intuition, but I know that price of something comes from 3 things:Cost of manufacturing(cost of material+cost of labor to assemble it)+cost of labor to design it(salaries of engineers basically in this case) and the willingness of customer to pay for it.(hence why Apple products are expensive, because they can)

Which one is it that drives the price of simulators so high? Some of their parts are made of gold? The engineers who design them get paid C-Suite salaries? Or are airlines and flight schools very generous when it comes to spending so the price tag is that much simply because it still gets bought? Or all of them?

Edit:Same also applies to other things that have insane price tags like the F-35 helmet which is close to $800k, which is even more shocking than the airliner simulator's price. How many people work on it?

Re: Price of Full Motion Simulators

Posted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 1:22 am
by Woodreau
Whatever the price is.. Disney’s Smuggler’s Run ride is 28 fully articulated full motion simulators for each park - Hollywood Studios and Disneyland. So the 56 simulators Disney runs for a thrill ride probably exceeds some airline training centers.

There are 7 simulators on a rotating turntable, and 4 turn-tables, allowing them to load 4 simulators simultaneously while 24 simulators are in various stages of their flight.

Re: Price of Full Motion Simulators

Posted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 5:33 am
by JayinKitsap
So there is a cockpit, including windshield. It's mounted on a full motion structure allowing 45 degree tilts in all directions. It is inside of a theater or displays needing to be mounted just outside the windshield. Every control and instrument is tagged up to a computer circuit that must display and act within around 1% of actual for the full range of the instrument. Ie - a virtual pitot tube needs to be created, that can act like it is icing etc. The video displays need to be quite good, very real appearance is needed (that required accuracy).

The new trainers for the US Navy Frigates take a $ 10 million 8,000 SF facility, the server room has a 100 kW UPS with 1,200 cables (1/3 fiber optic) between it and all of the equipment. 60 tons of cooling is required. A god awful amount of programming to create all of those virtual feeds, likely in the $25 million range, spread out over 10 trainers. An engineering / IT tech staff / instructors of 7, some being Electrical engineers working for contractors. That is for a trainer with only a 2 axis gimbal.

The analog acoustic generator of all of the sonar signals needs several $100K blade servers to mimic the sounds. As the operators and system can tell the difference between a male or female dolphin at 20 miles. Probably, all said and done over $ 50 million for the facility and trainer, 4 to 5 million annual operating cost. Yes this is a trainer for an entire crew now just 3 in a cockpit. A couple of the trainers I was involved with went into spaces with former aviation trainers from decades ago. Their server room was twice our size with several tons of copper grounding, lots of 400 hz power as well as huge amounts of power and cooling.

Re: Price of Full Motion Simulators

Posted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 6:13 am
by 426Shadow
Trimeresurus wrote:

Edit:Same also applies to other things that have insane price tags like the F-35 helmet which is close to $800k, which is even more shocking than the airliner simulator's price. How many people work on it?


The helmet doesn't cost that much anymore. Its closer to $300,000.

Re: Price of Full Motion Simulators

Posted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 5:05 pm
by CanukinUSA
Assuming that you are talking about a Civil Airliner Level-D Full Flight Simulator. When I finished working in the late 1990s for the world's largest simulator manufacturer the price for a single Civil Airliner Level-D Full Flight simulator was about 13 million US$. I expect that it has increased since then probably about 15 million US$ is a guess now. You get a discount if you buy them in bulk.
For military simulators it is a different ballgame as they do all sorts of things that Civil Airliners do not need to simulate and quite often can be linked together with other simulators for training scenarios that involve combat, etc... Each one is different, and the price will depend on what training the simulator needs to do.

Re: Price of Full Motion Simulators

Posted: Wed Jun 09, 2021 11:24 pm
by AndrewJM70
From my experience in the simulator business a large part of the cost is the flight model pack from the manufacturer, without which you cannot get the regulator approval.

We were trying to get a lower level of approval without spending the money on a data pack and were told that we would need to hire a 737 and perform our own flight tests to produce a replica pack capable of getting the required approval, which was not guaranteed!!

Re: Price of Full Motion Simulators

Posted: Thu Jun 17, 2021 1:37 am
by zeke
Trimeresurus wrote:
We all know that they are one of the most expensive tools used in the industry, after the airplane itself.(In case of used old aircraft, like 737 classics, their sim can be more expensive than the plane too!)

But how come? I am not a corporate manager myself so my knowledge comes from intuition, but I know that price of something comes from 3 things:Cost of manufacturing(cost of material+cost of labor to assemble it)+cost of labor to design it(salaries of engineers basically in this case) and the willingness of customer to pay for it.(hence why Apple products are expensive, because they can)

Which one is it that drives the price of simulators so high? Some of their parts are made of gold? The engineers who design them get paid C-Suite salaries? Or are airlines and flight schools very generous when it comes to spending so the price tag is that much simply because it still gets bought? Or all of them?

Edit:Same also applies to other things that have insane price tags like the F-35 helmet which is close to $800k, which is even more shocking than the airliner simulator's price. How many people work on it?


The most obvious reason for the price (which I don’t consider to be high) is the relatively high cost to develop and certify and update, and the relatively low production volume.

Re: Price of Full Motion Simulators

Posted: Thu Jun 17, 2021 5:08 am
by CanukinUSA
The flight pack is obtained by the manufacturer during it’s Flight Test program. You not only need to obtain an aircraft but must also install the correct instrumentation on it which takes time and money and has to be removed after. The simulator requires better data in it’s flight model then the aircraft needs for certification. Keep in mind that the simulator is only as good as the flight model and is usually slightly worse.
Some the simulator parts have to be better then the aircraft as they are worked a lot more then the parts in the aircraft are. Airlines usually have their simulators in use 20 hours a day 7 days a week so parts wear out. They are flying training maneuvers in them which tends to wear out items like flight controls faster not just cruising for hours at cruise altitudes.
Simulators do many things that real aircraft do not do like reposition and simulate malfunctions and abnormals so the software to do that has to be designed.
I have been involved in both aircraft Flight Test and simulation and I have found it harder to certify a simulator then the real aircraft.
You also have a very compressed schedule as usually the last thing that an airline orders is the simulators and they want the simulators right away to train their crews so that their new aircraft are not sitting on the ground costing money when they arrive.