Chris Long provides an update on Turkish Airlines training and simulation capabilities.

In recent years the rapid expansion of the airlines in the Gulf and Asia has been promoted largely through the media coverage of the big-number aircraft orders from those regions. The commercial centre of gravity of aviation is certainly gently moving eastwards. What perhaps has been missed has been that, at the same time, there has been continual and considerable growth of aviation in Turkey; this is nowhere more evident than in the expansion of the flag carrier, Turkish Airlines.

During the inauguration of the latest full flight simulator at the Turkish Airlines Flight Training Center in Istanbul, Turkey, the Chairman of Turkish Airlines, Mr Hamdi Topçu, revealed more of both the national and airline ambitions. At the national level, Mr Topçu announced that in May 2013 a tender for the development of a third airport for Istanbul will be issued. This will be to the north of Istanbul, and is planned to be capable of an annual throughput of more than 100 million passengers (this compares with, for instance, the 2012 London Heathrow figure of just under 70 million). The scale of the need for expanded infrastructure is hinted at by the 20% growth last year registered by Turkish Airlines. Mr Topçu also said that an additional five Airbus A330s would probably be ordered, and now Turkish Airlines has signed a contract for up to 117 A320 Family aircraft (25 A321ceo, 4 A320neo, 53 A321neo and options for 35 additional A321neo aircraft.) This order is the largest ever placed by a Turkish carrier. To continue to build the training capacity of THY to meet the needs of the expanding fleets, the latest of the six FFS’s at the centre, an L3 manufactured Airbus A330/340 device, is now online. The facility includes six FFS simulators, and B777 FTD’s are also available. Three additional simulators have been ordered.

Whilst this rate of growth may at first surprise, there is a very credible logic driving this expansion.

While the major markets in the West are pretty much stabilised, the growth continues in the newer markets. The geographical location of Istanbul is hugely favourable to accessing and servicing this greater population. Istanbul has been a trading crossroads over thousands of years, and there is a strong historic precedent for that to continue – only the vehicle for that transfer changes. The wide bodies used by THY will principally be employed for the more distant destinations, hence the balance in the future fleet make up of THY.

That might seem ambitious to those embedded in a western culture, but there is no doubt that if such an approach could be made viable it would be a great relief to turn air travel back into a pleasant experience.

Supporting the Expansion

The Turkish Airlines Flight Training Center has largely been refurbished, and the redecoration of all simulator bays, classrooms and crew lounges reflects a desire to make it a brighter, more friendly place which is designed to create an effective learning environment. The importance of creating a good working atmosphere also shows in the provision of free transport to and from the training centre. An astonishing 67 buses are used on a daily basis to collect the THY teams based at Istanbul International airport, and there is a shared and free full lunch facility for the training staff in the communal training centre canteen.

The six FFSs are all approved by EASA; for instance the UK CAA conducted the approvals for the most recent addition. These high end training devices are complemented by the adoption of an increased capacity and availability of distance learning. Flight crew courses include not only type rating and recurrent training, but also TRI-SFI courses, and training for TRE-SFE as well. Boeing Difference Training and Airbus CCQ courses are available and both MCC and MCCI courses are provided.

With 2500 pilots, and nearly 5600 cabin crew, the training task is already significant, and, of course, this will increase as the additional aircraft are delivered. The majority of the instructors are recruited from THY pilots, and the cabin crew instructors have all got experience of THY operations; most of the instructors at the training centre continue to operate commercial flights. That way they stay current on day-to-day operations and have great credibility with the trainees.

Provision for cabin crew training is also being updated, with a new cabin emergency evacuation trainer (CEET) in place, together with a new B777 door trainer to add to those of the other fleets. The latest CEET, an A320/321 trainer, is made by TFC and, in addition to the full range of simulated fires, smoke generation and sound effects, uses a motion platform to enhance the training. An additional live fire trainer, manufactured by Interfire has been ordered and this will provide an improved and extended range of live fire scenarios.

Ab Initio Training

To respond to the clear demand for pilots up to 2020, THY have recognised that some 300 pilots a year need to join the company. The Turkish Airlines Flight Academy currently supplies an annual throughput of 80-85 graduates to their ab-initio programme, so the template exists to build the necessary increase in numbers. A new facility located in Aydun is under construction which will aim to supply the full annual requirement of 300. A notable feature of the present training is the use of the Cessna Mustang Citation Jet as part of the multi-engine training leading to a “Classic” CPL/IR (Frozen ATPL) licence, and that format will be retained.

From April 2013, Pilot Training Network (PTN), a subsidiary of Lufthansa Flight Training GmbH, will train one hundred young pilot cadets from the airline. In addition to 15 months of basic training, the package includes a type rating on the Airbus A320 or the Boeing 737NG. This will take a further two months, and will be conducted by Lufthansa Flight Training. The theoretical training will take place in Vero Beach, Florida and in Rostock-Laage in north-eastern Germany.

Optimistic Outlook

In contrast to some other regions, the Turkish view on the growth of aviation is bullish. Having come to the conclusion that the forecasts of a continuing increase in commercial aviation are valid, Turkey sees itself as both geographically well-placed relative to a significant part of the expanding market, and with both the will and the resources to grow its own capacity to answer that demand.