Syracuse University Magazine

Taking Flight in the Classroom

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At first glance, the Fidelity MOTUS 622i looks like it might be the world’s most elaborate video game—and in some ways it is. But to pilots, aerospace engineers, and scholars, there’s no mistaking it for anything other than the world’s most advanced full-motion, reconfigurable flight simulation device. Last year, SU became one of the very few educational institutions in the world offering use of such full-motion flight simulators to its students by virtue of a $602,000 gift from William “Ted” Frantz ’80 to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (LCS). Frantz, a licensed pilot and former Boeing engineer, is vice president of Haebler Capital, an investment firm. “Since I would have liked to have a flight simulator when I was at Syracuse, making this gift was a simple decision,” he says.

Professor Hiroshi Higuchi believes the flight simulator is a valuable tool in aerospace education because it allows students to familiarize themselves with the nuances of air flow by experiencing physical sensation, such as the feel of wind resistance on the pilot’s throttle in response to specific maneuvers and conditions. Higuchi praised Frantz for understanding and supporting this significant educational enhancement. “Our proposal included purchase of the simulator, classroom renovation in Link Hall to house it, and maintenance provisions,” Higuchi says. “Mr. Frantz saw the importance of all the factors and funded us in full.” 

The MOTUS 622i, manufactured in Pittsburgh by Fidelity Flight Simulation, is not the first flight simulator to find a home in Link Hall. Edwin A. Link, whose gift funded the building, invented the first flight simulator in 1929 at his father’s pipe organ factory in Binghamton, New York, and his “Link Trainer” was widely used during World War II. A vintage model was restored for LCS students during the 1980s by former dean Earl Kletsky. “Unfortunately, the Link simulator is not accurate by current standards,” Higuchi says. “I looked at several models, but when I saw this one at the Imperial College in London, I knew it was the best choice.”  

The new flight simulator’s software accurately reflects the flight characteristics of different existing or highly modified airplanes with sophisticated navigational equipment. It also depicts topographical features and weather conditions of Central New York and beyond with compelling visual imagery. It made its classroom debut last fall in Higuchi’s Aircraft Performance and Dynamics course, and has since been introduced to a variety of undergraduate and graduate offerings. Kristin Busa ’09, who used the flight simulator in Aircraft Performance and Dynamics, found it particularly helpful in studying wing aerodynamics and dynamic stability. “We learned the mathematical basis of aircraft performance and then experienced what these equations meant by ‘flying’ the MOTUS 622i,” says Busa, now a graduate student at the University of Virginia. “It was a great way to understand the interface of scientific principles and human control.” 

An LCS outreach program, now in the planning stages, will open the flight simulator’s “cockpit” door to part-time students, and tours and demonstrations for area K-12 students are in the works. Looking further ahead, Higuchi suggests involving students from a variety of SU schools and colleges. “We'd like to bring the excitement of aeronautics to every corner of the University community,” he says.

—David Marc