Have there been any accidents which have happened to/in flight simulators?

I understand that simulators are used to simulate general accidents for training purposes (engine failure, birdstrikes etc), and also specific accidents for forensic purposes (the first use, in 1972, of a CAE JAT DC9 SIM), but I am wondering if there have been any accidents with the simulator itself? I am thinking of possibly a simulator's motion system failure? or fire? or trainees trapped? etc.

Additionally, if you knew of any source which might keep record of this type of information, that would also be very helpful.

The example that first comes to mind is the tragic 2014 crash of a Beechcraft King Air B200 into a flight simulator in Wichita, Kansas.

Update: To clarify, I am interested in all examples, but those that have received media attention for whatever reason are my primary interest (these stories will be held in the public record and can thus be further researched). Though interested in “work-place incidents”, these would likely have been dealt with internally unless there was a certain severity or sensational aspect.

I have answered my own question for now, will reward answer to someone else if they have any further information.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes there has been at least one, where the simulator tips over, but I can't seem to find it. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    May 23 at 21:25
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Whenever I was in the sim I would imagine it getting pissed off with its job and ripping up its anchors, smashing through the wall and running off down the street. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    May 24 at 0:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How severe does it have to be? That 2014 crash is famous, and probably the only fatal one. If you count non-fatal incidents, there must have been many, and they would be counted as "workplace incidents". I know of at least one with "trainees trapped" due to door failure, but in the end that just amounted to wasted time. (Had there been a fire at the same time, it could be fatal). Also, there must have been many incidents, including injuries, while building simulators. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    May 24 at 0:46
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Not strictly aviation. I once read of a railway simulator in the UK in the 1960s designed to speed up the transition of steam drivers to electric locomotives. It had a replica cab on hydraulic actuators, projected movie film of the track in front, and controls like the new locos. Film speed, cab movement, etc, controlled by a computer. It mimicked the sensations a driver would get when accelerating, braking, rounding curves, etc. One person drove into the buffers at the end of the track and the simulator was so faithful he was thrown forward and got a broken nose. $\endgroup$ May 24 at 19:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ One of our STS-86 training team members fell down the ladder in the Shuttle Mission Simulator fixed base and broke his leg. Rhea Seddon famously broke her foot during escape training in the Full Fuselage Trainer (that was not really a flight simulator, more of a mockup). $\endgroup$ May 24 at 20:54

I have been attempting to find information on this question for quite a while, and judging by the lack of answers, I am assuming that Zeus, in the comments to the question, is right: that accidents involving a flight simulator, to the extent that they are severe or sensational, are very rare. More often, accidents would be considered “workplace incidents” and would go unreported outside the company.

In Larry Milberry’s text The Story of CAE (2015), while discussing safety procedures and accidents in the development of flight simulation motion systems, several accidents did indeed happen, but none which involved injury:

  • There was a failure of a British Airways simulator where “a malfunction drove the cockpit at maximum pitch-up velocity into the end of travel, breaking the upper bearings and sending the simulator to the floor.”
  • During the testing of the (never installed) Iranian CH-47 simulator “there was a motion system failure. The simulators unusual vertical configuration meant that any uncontrolled loss of hydraulic system pressure would cause the flight compartment to lurch nose-down… The potential for Murphy’s law to take over was there in spades, and one day the interlocks did fail…”

In my pursuit of this question, working through historic newspapers, I have come across several tangentially related, though ultimately unsatisfactory, examples to my question: the 1967 oxygen fire in the Apollo 1 capsule simulator that killed 2 airmen (and 16 rabbits), an eerie repeat of the explosion which killed the 3 astronauts the Friday before; the 1991 B52 crash during the Gulf War which again was an "eerie repeat" of a “crash-in-the-box” during previous training; the 1991 deaths of two pilots “simulating” the attack on Pearl Harbor in Florida; the 2001 attempt by a man to open the emergency door mid-flight saying “it’s OK, we are just on a simulator”; and finally, many instances where flight simulators have been used to familiarize those with intent to hijack a plane.

Again, these are not what I am looking for, but they are the types of things you find when you start searching for this particular information. My sense is that there must be examples of accidents in flight simulators which have been significant but which, likely due to them being workplace accidents, did not receive media attention. Nonetheless, maybe this answer will help provoke the memory of others to contribute a more precise answer.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ There was a cherrypicker positioned to retrieve crewmembers from the Shuttle Mission Simulator motion base if it ever got stuck (arrow). Never used. i.imgur.com/vQozV8Q.jpg $\endgroup$ May 27 at 14:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.