Chris Long provides a report on the training and simulation activities at the Farnborough International Air Show.
The biennial Farnborough Air Show is rightly noted for the display of both civil and military aircraft and systems and, certainly in recent years, for the announcement of massive orders for new aircraft. In the past, the event tended not to have training as a particular focus, and at first sight this year was no exception. However, the effect of the very active acquisition and expansion programmes of major military players from both the United States and Europe is now showing up as a keen interest in training when they look for new markets.
This can cover not just manufacture of top end full flight simulators (FFS) but also the full range of training devices, as well as total training solutions - course design and delivery. An important shift in emphasis, particularly for the hardware manufacturers, is the concept that long-term customer support and customisation is now becoming a baseline built into every product presentation and supply.
A quick look at some of the key programmes in civil aviation training.
L-3 Link Simulation and Training
Lenny Genna, president L-3 Link Simulation and Training is very pleased with the integration of the historic expertise in military training and the respected performance and flexibility of the RealitySeven™ FFS built by L-3 Link at the Crawley, UK facility. He sees that the active exchange programme already underway with talented specialists from Crawley and Arlington, USA, allows L-3 to combine the best practice of the two historic bloodlines to further improve both streams of training capability. The installation of an additional ATR 72-600 RealitySeven and an A320 FFS at the L-3 owned AATC in Bangkok, Thailand, also reflects the success of current programmes. The accent is on continuing to develop an entire range of training support devices, from iPads to FFSs. The order for an A350 FFS from Cathay Pacific is another good indicator of future trends; this in a future which sees the customisation of training platforms and systems coupled with robust customer support as the way forward.
Thales on the Move
Last year at the Paris Air Show, Jean-Jacques Guittard, Thales vice president, in charge of training and simulation activities, declared that plans were in place to set up a civil helicopter training centre at Albertville in France, principally to provide training on a Level B FFS for the AS350 used by Search and Rescue crews operating in the French, Swiss and Italian Alps, the site is now up and running. This is the first of two sites; the second will be in Stavanger in Norway to provide training in support of the Offshore Oil and Gas industry for those operating the ubiquitous EC225.
The data packages for both aircraft have been developed by Thales through flying and measuring the real performance of the helicopters and building the FFS data pack from that collected data. Thales believes that owning the data not only reduces the cost for the customer, but also enables rapid updates when required.
It is well recognised that helicopter fleets can be small, and that consequently few operators can set up their own training establishments. The Thales solution is to select geographically well situated centres to provide access for the greatest number of operators, and is actively looking for global sites which fit that bill. The relatively poor safety record of rotary wing operations when compared with the more numerous fixed wing operations is likely to lead to increased regulatory training and currency requirements. Naturally the more responsible operators have already boosted their training, but there is no doubt that the overall task will increase - Thales has anticipated this, and intends to be ready as the training demand increases.
Over and above the immediate market drivers, there is still a need for innovation to improve the product. An intriguing addition to the training is to develop a simulation based avatar, in particular to lead distance learning. That is proving to be a challenge, but the indications are that Thales is well on the way to being able to deploy this particular innovation - something to keep an eye open for.
TRU Simulation + Training
In another acquisition by a major military training provider, Textron has started to build a significant civil aviation training business to put alongside the civil aircraft manufacturing capability which it has through ownership of Bell Helicopter, Cessna and Beechcraft. This new team, TRU Simulation + Training, was revealed officially at this year's WATS event.
By combining the talents of two modest sized companies, OPINICUS and Mechtronix, the former based at Tampa, Florida has its primary strengths in software, whereas Mechtronix, based in Canada, is highly competent in software design and the manufacture of hardware. During a press call at Farnborough, Jim Takats, TRU Simulation + Training’s president and CEO indicated that there is a happy and synergistic fusion of those capabilities, with benefits already being driven out of this blend. Takats said he is determined "to foster the ‘small company’ sense of entrepreneurship and innovation which, coupled with the inherent attentive customer service culture, can benefit from the level of investment available from a mega-player to build the business further". The eventual aim is to have a balanced 50/50 split between military and civil activity.
Another plus for this new team is that, for the first time, an aircraft OEM will also have the capability of manufacturing the entire suite of training aids, with the inevitable seamless transfer of data which that will encourage. TRU Simulation + Training will also have a unique ability to provide training suites for all sizes of civil aircraft, from Cessna 150s through to Airbus A330s.
Finally, the expansion and construction of training facilities will increase the spectrum of solutions available to customers, so Takats believes that the time and capabilities are well matched to ride the wave of growth in the civil aviation training market.