How NI PXI Empowered US Navy Pilots

Navy jet, fighter aircraft flying over sunset

Flight simulation has become an integral part of training programs for military and aerospace organizations, ensuring pilots are well-prepared for the challenges they’ll face in the skies. In 2006, SYMVIONICS, Inc., a prime contractor for the US Department of Defense, took on a critical challenge: building six operational flight trainers for the US Navy at Naval Air Station Kingsville.

The goal was to prepare new pilots for initial jet training, including carrier aviation and tactical strike missions. To achieve this, SYMVIONICS turned to the National Instruments (NI) PXI platform, a decision that would prove to be a game-changer in the world of flight simulation.

The Challenge: Controlling I/O for Six Flight Simulation Stations

Creating a comprehensive flight simulation system that meets the stringent requirements of the US Navy is no easy task. The core challenge SYMVIONICS faced was effectively controlling input and output (I/O) for six separate flight simulation stations. These stations needed to deliver real-time, accurate data for an immersive training experience, without sacrificing safety or performance.

The Solution: Harnessing the Power of NI PXI

In its quest to build cutting-edge flight trainers, SYMVIONICS turned to the versatile NI PXI platform. The team crafted each of the six systems around an NI PXI-1045 chassis, featuring 18 slots for various test and measurement applications. This setup was strategically placed under the aircraft’s nose, encapsulating the I/O in the cockpit while keeping it out of the students’ view.

The integration of an MXI-4 fiber-optic link facilitated seamless communication between the PXI chassis and the PC, offering electrical isolation without the need for complex programming. Within each PXI chassis were 11 I/O cards and one controller card. For data transmission, the team relied on four NI PXI-6508 parallel digital I/O modules. Additionally, an NI PXI-6071E multifunction device with 64 analog inputs provided crucial data on the pilot control stick and rudder pedal input.

The PXI-6704 analog output device offered precise control over analog signals, enabling the team to meet trainer I/O requirements using just four devices, including spares. The single-point I/O system design ensured that all information from the cockpit returned to one rack, ensuring real-time measurements during the simulation.

Monitoring the flight simulation systems in real time was a critical aspect of the project. SYMVIONICS used the SYMVIONICS virtual I/O system, a sophisticated interface displaying variables and sensor data in real time. This interface, supported by an associated Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, allowed easy addition or removal of variables, facilitating system checks and adjustments as needed.

The user-friendly system also enabled simulated variable inputs, ensuring periodic checks to detect and address hardware issues. The ability to override sensor inputs and enter simulated variables provided an extra layer of assurance and allowed for comprehensive testing of the systems.

The Path to Success: NI PXI Drives Results

The implementation of the NI PXI platform proved to be a resounding success for SYMVIONICS and the US Navy’s pilot training program. The PXI’s versatility and reliability significantly reduced system development time, allowing the team to meet tight deadlines and improve time-to-market for the flight trainers.

Furthermore, the use of PXI-based solutions demonstrated the platform’s capability to empower future projects in the aerospace and military industries. The success of this endeavor heralds a new era in flight simulation training, where the NI PXI platform plays a pivotal role in shaping the next generation of skilled and competent pilots.

SYMVIONICS‘ remarkable feat in building state-of-the-art flight simulation systems for the US Navy underscores the vital role played by the NI PXI platform. Through its powerful and adaptable capabilities, the NI PXI revolutionized I/O control, data acquisition, and real-time monitoring in the flight simulation industry. With a focus on excellence and efficiency, SYMVIONICS and the US Navy have ensured that their pilots receive the best possible training, guaranteeing safety, precision, and preparedness in the face of any challenge. The success of this project sets a benchmark for future advancements in flight simulation, leveraging the NI PXI platform to drive innovation and excellence in pilot training worldwide.