The scale of demand for training in Asia was recognised some time ago, and some training organisations started to react early. Chris Long visits AATC in Bangkok.
Back in 2009, AATC (Asian Aviation Training Centre) had just two full flight simulators (FFS) co-located at the Thai Airways training centre in Bangkok, Thailand. These FFS’s provided training for five versions of the Classic ATR 42 and 72. However, since then AATC has relocated to a purpose built training centre co-located at the Bangkok Airways Operations Centre at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, installed Airbus FSTDs, and in 2014 an additional ATR 72 600 FFS was also installed.
The resurgence in orders for these ATR aircraft has necessitated updating the range of tools for the training task, but it was also recognised that there were many additional training opportunities being created.
John R. Smith, general manager, says that the company is now an excellent example of how an Asian entity has evolved to address predominantly Asian tasks; the team is made up of 37 Thai nationals, with just five ex-pats presently employed. AATC is one of only 12 ATOs which are currently directly approved by EASA, as opposed to those for whom oversight is the responsibility of European national authorities.
Training Equipment Whilst coming under the corporate umbrella of L-3, AATC is a separate business unit. This relationship means that AATC sources its training equipment from L-3 at normal market rates. A huge advantage however, is that sourcing from the equipment OEM means that tailored solutions can be easily implemented and updates and modifications are rapidly integrated. Because regional aircraft like the ATR operate into austere airports there can be challenges for the trainers; relevant airfield and terrain data is critical and AATC has set up a full-time team of three database modelers who are constantly updating and adding to the very diverse range of airfields to which established and new customers operate. This is then projected by a state-of-the-art RSI XT4.1 visual system which gives a field of view of 45 by 200 degrees and a scene resolution of 60cms.
Borvorn Kasemtanakul, presently deputy general manager, points out that the range of RealitySeven™ FFSs have been upgraded to a common standard, and that includes some innovations which anticipate changes to regulatory approval. For instance the software for “bounced landings” mandated from 2017 onwards is already in place and operating. There is also software for ATR Upset Recovery/Unusual Attitude and Deep Tail Stall Training. In a fascinating initiative, various olfactory inputs will be fully integrated during Q4 2015, simulating the smell of, for instance, volcanic ash (sulphur) or of electrical wire burning, or even an apparently not-infrequent smell of handbags burning in the microwave ovens!
Kasemtanakul is proud of the fact that the changeout of the FFS for the different versions of the ATR aircraft can be carried out in 30 minutes, which helps lead to a 99.8 utilisation rate for the six slots per day. An enhanced ATR 600 flight training device (FTD) has also been developed jointly in-house and with L3 which features 3D switches to better replicate the feel of function selection.
Variability in competency of newly-arrived pilots is also catered for by using another AATC-produced device - a Beech 200 FTD which helps to check competency before starting the standard type rating or recurrent training on the high-end FFS.
The biggest change, though, is in the range and number of FFSs available. The building program continues, with an 84-90 day construction time for each new two-bay simulator building. There are now three ATR FFSs, two Airbus A320 FFSs and an A330 FFS operational, with an additional ATR 600 device coming online in 2016 Q2/3, together with a further A320.
With some 35,000 pilot training events every year, new customers coming onboard, and the recent acquisition by L3 Link of training provider CTC leading to an increased market for type rating work, there is evidently a considerable ongoing demand.
The commitment to answer the regional thirst for training is very evident, and with the generation of the resulting customised solutions, a thriving business has been created, which has in turn generated local employment and competencies - a win-win solution.