Rick Adams on the latest in simulators
Despite the continued doldrums of the business aircraft market and the civil helicopter sphere struggling against persistently low oil prices, pilot training enrolment not only remains consistent, more or less, but vendors also continue to introduce new aircraft types and enhance technologies. And surprisingly, new companies are entering the niche sector, adding pressure to pricing and making training more of a buyer’s market.
“I wouldn’t say it’s blue skies ahead but it’s certainly a good market that will sustain itself. Business jet training at the top end continues to do well, growing at a reasonably steady rate. In the core market in North America, we’re not seeing significant growth but we’re certainly not seeing a decline,” said Steve Phillips, Vice President Communications, for FlightSafety International, which has dominated business aircraft training since their inception in 1951. “Europe continues to struggle. We’ve seen a bit of a decline in Russia. And Asia is not growing nearly as fast as many people thought that it would.”
Nick Leontidis, Group President of Civil Aviation Training Solutions at FlightSafety’s primary rival, CAE, agreed: “We’re not going to see a lot of change in the activity levels in the foreseeable future. I think you’re seeing that in the news from the OEMs about the reduction in production rates and deliveries because of currency or sanctions or whatever.” Nonetheless, Leontidis, said on the business aircraft training side, “We haven’t felt any dramatic reduction in demand.”
The civil helicopter training demand is a different story, of course. “Definitely problematic,” Leontidis admitted. “We’ve seen a pretty dramatic reduction in the demand for training. The operators have reduced capacity, reduced numbers of pilots. When oil prices started to decline, most of the oil companies didn’t touch their production but they touched all of their exploration. Our customers like CHC lost a lot of their business because exploration projects were shelved.”
The no-growth training market is getting sliced into more pieces, though. Textron is aggressively carving out some of the Beechcraft and Cessna aircraft portions through its purchase of customer ProFlight, now part of the TRU Simulation + Training unit which was cobbled together via other acquisitions two years ago. And on the helicopter side, there are two new players offering training services: long-time simulator manufacturer Thales and the German family business, Reiser.
Jim Takats, TRU Senior Vice President, Global Simulation & Training Strategy, said: “There’s a lot of innovation going on at ProFlight. With our ‘green sheet’ design, not having a lot of legacy courseware to deal with, ProFlight’s taken training to the next level. Also, our instructors are flying the aircraft they are instructing on and have real-world operational experience.”
Here’s an alphabetical summary by company of recent and near-future training activity.
NEW IN BUSINESS AIRCRAFT TRAINING
CAE – After introducing its new 7000XR (eXtreme Reality) full-flight simulator design two years ago, CAE has finally applied it to a business aircraft device, a Gulfstream G650 for its Dubai, UAE joint venture with Emirates Airlines. The 7000XR features embedded training capabilities to address Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) regulations from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), a re-designed instructor office with support for mobile devices and real-time data analysis and feedback, and the CAE Flightscape debriefing station with simulator operational quality assurance (SOQA) system.
The Embraer-CAE Training Services JV is shifting its Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 training footprint in Europe, departing CAE’s centre in Burgess Hill, UK in favor of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Other Phenom training locations are Dallas, Texas in the USA and São Paulo, Brazil. A new Garmin ProdigyTouch avionics-equipped FFS is expected to be ready in early 2018.
FlightSafety – The new Cessna Citation Latitude Level D simulator in Columbus, Ohio features the FAA-approved expanded aerodynamic model for upset prevention and recovery training. By year-end, UPRT will be offered for the Cessna CJ3, Gulfstream G450, GV, G550, G650, King Air 350 and Pilatus PC-12.
Training for the Gulfstream G650 aircraft will be available in Farnborough, UK from March 2017 – the fourth FlightSafety location (Savannah, Georgia; Long Beach, California; and Wilmington, Delaware are the others).
FlightSafety has also received qualification for two Cessna Caravan simulators, equipped with Garmin G1000 and Garmin G600 avionics, in Wichita, Kansas.
The company’s new FlightBag app for courseware delivery on tablets and desktop computers was rolled out in mid-year for pilot, maintenance technician and flight attendant courses. Publications available include digital training manuals, cockpit posters, flashcards, and guides for post-course review and reference.
SimCom – Rather than full-flight simulators, the new SimCom Aviation Training Centre Europe will use a combination of Level 2 flight training devices and in-aircraft training. Scheduled to open in November near Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport, the focus will be on turboprops and light midsize business jets and the ‘owner-flown’ market. Miami, Florida-based SimCom is partnered with Simulation Training Company (STC), Villepinte, France.
A Citation Mustang simulator will soon be available at SimCom’s Scottsdale, Arizona training centre.
Textron/TRU – The 30,000-square-foot expansion of the ProFlight pilot training centre in Lutz, Florida, near Tampa, is expected to be completed in November, accommodating four additional full-flight simulators plus classrooms and flight training devices. Citation CJ3+ and Citation M2 training will be added at TRU’s East Coast training centre and Citation CJ4 at TRU’s West Coast training centre in Carlsbad, California.
King Air 350 pilots now have the option to train at home through an FAA-approved distance learning option for BE-300 recurrents. The option permits the customer to receive 100% of their aircraft systems training online for recurrent training, and then focus all time spent at the training centre on simulator training scenarios. This saves about 1.5 days off a 3-4 day recurrent course. TRU is also offering its proprietary Current 365 online training suite, available throughout the year.
Cessna Citation Latitude, Longitude, and Hemisphere FFSs are destined for ProFlight as well.
NEW IN HELICOPTER TRAINING
CAE – CAE’s recent helicopter deployments range from north-eastern Canada to northern and southern Europe to Southeast Asia. In June it began operating a new helicopter training research and development centre in Mount Pearl, near St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Funding is from Hibernia Management and Development Company, operator of the Hibernia field, which is owned by ExxonMobil Canada, Chevron Canada Resources, Suncor Energy and other petroleum pursuers. Training is being provided to Cougar Helicopters Sikorsky S92 pilots. “A training centre right here in the province provides more efficient scheduling of training, less travelling and therefore less fatigue for our flight crews,” said Hank Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Cougar. “This simulator provides training for our low-visibility and offshore approaches and simulates turbulence and icing conditions accurately to match the conditions in which we operate.”
CAE’s next-door neighbour in Mount Pearl is Falck Safety Services, which features a wave pool for training oil rig workers how to egress a helicopter in case of ditching or a crash.
In Sesto Calende, Italy, Leonardo Helicopters (formerly AgustaWestland, formerly Finmeccanica) has obtained regulatory approval for an AW169 light intermediate helicopter simulator for the Leonardo-CAE Rotorsim JV. The Italian academy is the first centre offering training for the entire Leonardo family, including the AW139 and AW189 models.
Earlier this year CAE became the first independent to be designated an Airbus Helicopters Approved Simulation Centre for H225 recurrent training at its Gardermoen Airport, Oslo facility in Norway.
FlightSafety – Night vision goggle (NVG) training has been approved for Airbus H135 and Bell 212 and 412 helicopters at the Dallas, Texas location. FlightSafety claims to be the first to receive FAA approval for Part 142 delivery of NVG initial, recurrent, recent experience and proficiency courses.
A Sikorsky S-76C+ and S-76C++ simulator located in Singapore has been qualified to Level D by the FAA, as has an Airbus EC145 sim developed with Metro Aviation in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Frasca – The Bell 407 GX Level B FFS at the Bell Helicopter Training Academy in Fort Worth, Texas features Frasca’s TruVision global visual system with a 200-degree by 80-degree field of view, TruNVG night vision goggle capability, a six-axis motion system with 62-inch actuators and a secondary six-axis TruCue vibration system. The simulator is convertible between the legacy configuration and the latest GX Garmin G1000.
At Metro Aviation’s Helicopter Flight Training Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, a Frasca Level 7 Bell 407GX trainer is also NVG-capable. The cockpit allows for inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) training with eight projector screens and including low, medium and high illumination NVG training.
A Bell 206L Level 7 FTD at Air Evac Lifeteam in O’Fallon, Missouri includes Garmin G500H, Genesys Aerosystems HeliSAS, HTAWS (Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System), and Garmin GTN650. Air Evac is the launch customer for Frasca’s new short-stroke motion cueing system, which provides critical vestibular feedback to pilots.
An AS350B2/H125 Level 7 FTD is the first such device in Canada, delivered to Canadian Helicopters at Edmonton Airport, Alberta. The training device is convertible among three different configurations: the AS350B2, AS350B2 VEMD and the AS350B3e (now the Airbus H125). The customised mission database provides visual scenarios for a pinnacle landing zone, rooftop helipads, confined landing zones, EMS accident scene, oil rigs and platforms and moving traffic, such as other aircraft and ships.
Reiser – Bavaria-based manufacturer Reiser Simulation and Training is attempting the power-by-the-hour route, placing simulators with major customers but retaining ownership of the device and the option to sell unused time. Their first level D FFS, an Airbus Helicopters H145 sim for the ADAC Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) Academy in Cologne, Germany, is slated for delivery in 2017. Training will be primarily in urban environments and offshore scenarios around Germany. They are also building H135 and H145 trainers for the Norwegian Competence Centre Helicopter in Stavanger using the roll-on/roll-off approach for switching cockpits attached to a common visual and motion system docking station.
Reiser CEO Dr Roman Sperl has opted to forego OEM flight data and instead collect the information using a specially equipped model of the aircraft type being simulated. For visual databases, the company has selected American firm Quantum3D’s Independence IDX 8000 image generator, best known for military synthetic training applications.
Textron/TRU – The newly christened Bell Helicopter Training Academy (BTA), powered by TRU Simulation + Training, is expected to begin training Bell 429 pilots in January using a new Odyssey H FFS design with a 240-degree horizontal by 80-degree vertical field-of-view visual system and 41-megapixel total system resolution visual display. EASA-licensed instructors at BTA-Valencia will have more than 5,000 hours of helicopter experience across multiple platforms as well as English, Spanish, French and Italian language capabilities.
TRU is building three roll-on/roll-off full-flight simulators and five helicopter cockpits for flight training provider Coptersafety’s Helsinki, Finland facility. The simulators will represent Airbus Helicopters H125 and H145 (ready for training in Q4 2017) and Leonardo Helicopters AW169 and AW189 models. The fifth model will be announced later. Rockwell Collins is supplying EP-8100 image generators and laser-illuminated high-fidelity projectors.
TRU is also producing the prototype simulators for the new Bell 525 Relentless fly-by-wire aircraft (Level D) and the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X (Level 7 FTD with mini-motion).
Thales – Thales launched a helicopter training centre in Brisbane, Australia in September as part of a fledgling network which includes facilities in Stavanger, Norway and Albertville, France. The new Thales LifeFlight Training Centre features a Reality H Level D full-flight simulator for the Leonardo AW139. The Norway Training Centre began training for the Airbus H225 helicopter in February with customers Blueway Offshore Norway AS and Dancopter.
In Albertville, in the French Alps, where a number of operators fly the Airbus H125/AS350 B3e Ecureuil/AStar for search-and-rescue, Thales and partner SAF have attracted customers from Spain, Angola and India to use the Level B/FTD 3. Similar to Reiser’s approach, Thales and SAF bypassed the prohibitive cost of OEM data in favour of data collection flights in an AS350 fitted with numerous sensors, mainly targeted at mountain flying. The SAF facility also has EC135 and H125 simulators.
Helisim, a joint venture of Airbus Helicopters, Thales and Défense Conseil International, is developing an FFS for the new H160, which will be deployed to Marignane, France.