Pratt & Whitney is applying the same superior level of innovation it used in designing its game-changing Pure Power ® Geared Turbofan ™ (GTF) engine to develop virtual reality customer training tools to advance learning for airline mechanics worldwide.
Pratt & Whitney Customer Training in East Hartford, Connecticut, in conjunction with the United Technologies Research Center, is harnessing virtual reality technology in its training programs so participants can virtually walk inside a GTF engine to examine parts and view a running engine in motion.
"This investment in virtual reality customer training tools is just one example of how Pratt & Whitney is investing in technology and resources to better support our customers," said Bruce Hall, general manager, Customer Training. "These tools not only support immersion training, but provide a more comprehensive, effective customer training experience overall."
The virtual reality technology allows a participant to wear a headset to interact and manipulate animation. The participant can see, for example, how an engine's particular valve works and visualize how air flow moves through the engine to cool components.
"In our testing, we've had Pratt & Whitney engineers and manufacturing employees tell us they've never seen the parts and systems they've worked on for many years move either alone or in concert with other parts because they're buried deep inside the engine," Hall said. "This kind of access is impossible to achieve any other way."
The level of hardware and software Pratt &Whitney is utilizing allows the user to move around, inside and outside the engine, without physically moving by manipulating a handheld controller to determine where to explore. Additionally, when using the technology, users can lean forward and experience their heads moving through the engine nacelle into its inner workings.
The technology is being introduced into the classroom now on a piloted basis to gain additional feedback from students on how to build new curriculum around it. "Few people are doing this now so we need to decide how it can best serve our customers," Hall said. "Currently, Pratt & Whitney customer training is done through classroom time and with real engines. Our vision is we will have a virtual reality component that supplements what we currently have. Part of our beta-testing with students is determining how this new technology will best help them."
Hall can envision a time in the near future when a virtual reality process will be used in distance learning as well. "It's possible that we could take this technology to the point where a mechanic can get credit for learning what they need to know by picking up a virtual wrench from a virtual toolbox to work on one of our virtual engines."