For some time there has been general recognition that the centre of gravity of civil aviation has been moving eastwards. A prime indicator has been the huge numbers of new aircraft on order as the Gulf and Asia plan the future. In support of these orders some manufacturing, too, has migrated to Asia, as evidenced by the well-established and robust Airbus A320 manufacturing line established at Tianjin, China. In addition, it has recently confirmed that there will shortly be an A330 production facility built there.
As part of that trend towards Asia, and with the explicit aim of bringing support closer to the customers, there is a logical process which addresses the training needs of those destined to operate and maintain this very large influx of Airbus aircraft.
Once again Airbus has started construction, this time of a new campus at Seletar, Singapore. The purpose-built 10,000 square feet facility will group not only the training assets, but also the Airbus support organisation, SATAIR.
Yann Lardet, general manager, Airbus Asia Training Centre (AATC) Pte Ltd, is passionate about the scale and speed of development there. The new buildings will be inaugurated in March 2016, and the training element will immediately house six full flight simulators (FFS), with 10 bays planned initially and eventual expansion to 16 envisaged for the long term.
A key element in this initiative is the agreement with Singapore Airlines (SIA) to entrust all the training for the SIA Airbus fleet to Airbus. There will be a gradual handover as the existing FFSs (two A330’s and an A380) at the SIA Training Centre are transferred to the new site, and SIA will continue to provide instructors during the build-up of the number of Airbus instructors. All of those CAE and L-3 Link high end devices will be supported by full training suites, which will be used in the Airbus APT and ACE programmes.
In September AATC took delivery of its new A350 XWB simulator, which will initially be installed at the AATC temporary facility at Singapore Airlines Training Centre. The simulator will become operational in October and will be the first operational A350 XWB simulator in Asia-Pacific region. A further simulator A320 will be added later.
With the plan for the hardware being implemented, the other critical resource, people, is being addressed. High quality instructors are at a premium, and the aim is to build a stable and well-qualified team. Instructors who want to settle and work in the region are being recruited, and the demographic is to identify those who are in the 50 to early 60s age bracket, and who have a large amount of operational experience on Airbus types - typically with 10,000+ hours and training experience (TRI/TRE). Given the sophistication of the training aids it is essential that the instructors are adaptable as there will be continuous innovation and evolution of technology and methodology. Naturally a prime source will be from the large pool of immediately ex-SIA crews, but they will be joined by other similarly-qualified instructors as additional partner airlines place their training at the new centre.
Lardet is keen to point out that he has become aware that the Airbus training brand has considerable recognition in the region. For those smaller or start-up airlines which don't have a comprehensive training system, the opportunity to have that function carried out with the weight of Airbus behind it is very attractive. One option proposed is that, in order to respect the regulatory imperative of oversight of its own training, an airline could assign the training to Airbus, but would retain the evaluation/testing/assessment functions. There is also considerable value in being part of the standardisation of competencies and procedures which roll out across the global network of Airbus Training facilities - reassuring for the regulators.
None of that would work, however, if the pricing structure was too challenging. The real trick is to provide this robust training in the region at a price which is competitive in the market place. Lardet has several tools which help that pricing - the facility is very functional without unnecessary frills, the management team is small and agile, and the whole is run with an Airbus-designed Cloud IT system, MyTeam, which smooths the day-to-day running of the operation. The Airbus Customer Care Plan runs in parallel to MyTeam, and removes all the logistic and administrative concerns which can be a burden to the customer airline.
Given the growth in Asia, and the consequent increase in training demand, this new Airbus facility is designed to be able to bring the robust Airbus training pattern within reach of the regional market at a realistic price. From March 2016 the industry will be able to judge the effectiveness of that vision.