Group Editor Marty Kauchak highlights several significant business, technology and safety advancements in our community through 2014 and into early 2015.
The civil aviation simulation and training industry had much to be encouraged about during 2014 and into early this year.
Key industry sectors reported unflagging demand for S&T products and services, to train and educate the aircrews, flight attendants, maintainers and other personnel, for the large numbers of aircraft entering service around the globe, and more important, to provide operational life cycle support for the huge order backlogs reported by Boeing and Airbus. In one instance CAE’s fiscal year reports for 2014 and 2015 (for periods ending March 31 respectively) listed 89 Level D full-flight simulators (FFS) sold during the two periods.
Dynamic Business Environment High profile of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and related developments occurred in our industry. The World Aviation Training Conference and Tradeshow (WATS) 2014 was the venue for the former Textron Simulation & Training Systems to unveil its new name and brand – TRU Simulation + Training Inc.
The “rebranding” was a natural progression for the original Textron entity. CAT readers will recall that in November 2013 Textron acquired Mechtronix Inc., (of Montreal) and OPINICUS Corporation, (of Lutz, Florida). These companies combined with Textron Systems’ former training and simulation business, which served the military aircraft market.
Last July TRU Simulation + Training continued to round out its portfolio acquiring Carlsbad, California-based ProFlight, LLC, an FAA-approved Part 142 training center. ProFlight specializes in Cessna Citation CJ Series training, Cessna Conquest Series training, and offers an innovative continuous currency program that provides pilots greater training flexibility and year-round proficiency.
Jim Takats, TRU’s chief executive officer, told this author at WATS 2015, “We are working in all the different market segments, growing and expanding the business. We had a great first year. We’re integrating the businesses, gaining more efficiencies. We’re here to stay.”
Another significant rebranding occurred this January when Sim-Industries, a leading provider of commercial aviation training solutions, changed its name to Lockheed Martin Commercial Flight Training (LMCFT).
LMCFT provides a complete suite of commercial aviation training products and services including full flight simulators for select Boeing and Airbus models. The business also operates international commercial aviation training centers based in São Paulo, Brazil, and Incheon, Korea.
This May 28 L-3 Communications acquired CTC Aviation. Anthony Petteford, CTC’s chief commercial officer told CAT, CTC Aviation and L-3 Link UK will retain their individual brands and strengths as independent operational entities, while continuing to focus on and serve all their existing customers and markets.
CAT sister publication MS&T has watched Cubic Global Defense’s military portfolio expansion through the last decade. Cubic is now offering its technology competencies in this market place, using its proven simulation and game-based competencies from its military and other businesses. Bill Rebarick, PhD, the general manager for the Advanced Learning Solutions unit of Cubic Global Defense, observed how the civil market found its way to Cubic. “There’s a segment that we are building for the US Navy, Air Force and Army – game-based learning – which gives a student or somebody in the military the opportunity to do on the job training in a completely virtual environment,” said Rebarick.
Cubic’s learning solution is a step further than standard courseware, but a step away from simulation. Drawing the author’s attention at WATS 2015 to an example of this “middle-ground” learning approach, Rebarick continued, “What you see is an actual photo-realistic image of the working space that you are used to working in detail, down to within one-inch of actual correctness and exact color palates. When you walk into the gaming technology that’s out there right now, it looks like you are in a video more than you are in a game.”
Additionally the product’s virtual avatar serves as the learner’s trainer and becomes adaptable to what the student is doing.
Sector Snapshots Returning to the flight training business segment, UK-headquartered CTC Aviation reported “fairly explosive growth” across its full range of training programs, from ab initio through to instructor training. COO Petteford noted that beyond the growth across its vertically-integrated strategy, its ab initio component provided the most significant developments for 2014. “In the ab initio world we have a significant increase in airline partner demand and now have 17 airline partners around the world with whom we actively place our graduates.”
CTC Aviation annually provides airline training and resourcing support for approximately 50 airlines worldwide. The company is also adding to its global network of Crew Training Centers. In January 2014, the company announced a US$7 million investment in a new flight training facility in Phoenix (Goodyear), Arizona with a planned capacity for up to 200 pilot trainees per annum. Petteford pointed out that while this center will better situate the company to gain more business opportunities in North and South America, “This will also serve our existing European markets and Asian markets.”
Flightpath International’s business model has kept the Alliston, Ontario-based firm on a trajectory for global expansion. The company’s training network has recently added venues in Dubai and Costa Rica, among others. FlightPath’s portfolio includes programs for Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier for both pilot and maintenance courses.
In another sector, learning management systems (LMS) continued to quickly evolve beyond heritage-era, version 1.0 systems into suites of system products for other purposes – data management, qualification management and suchlike.
The state-of-the-art can be gleaned, in one instance, from Pelesys’ sale earlier this year of its Qualifications Management System (QMS) to Air Georgian. The additional QMS platform deployed to Air Georgian will be a Software-as-a-Service platform, supporting both the current, and future, qualification tracking and regulatory compliance for the professional flight crews of Air Georgian. Interfacing with the current Pelesys LMS in operational use by Air Georgian, “the QMS will alleviate administrator workloads through automated enrollments, notifications, and reporting of flight crew qualification status,” noted a company statement.
Kishor Mistry, the CEO and founder of Peak Pacific, a second company in this space, reflected on several dynamics of the 2014 business environment. In one instance, airline training organizations are said to be seeking the maximum return on investment in their learning, training and technology investments. At the same time they are seeking new ways in blended solutions for some of their requirements.
The Hong Kong-based company provided its current and prospective customers “holistic” solutions for their training organization with a two or three year strategic life cycle focus. The industry executive summarized the attributes of the holistic approach profile: “There are strategic goals set with measurements to indicate the success and ensure buy-in at all levels is there from IT, business units and most important, the end users.”
Peak Pacific expanded its business portfolio in 2014 with new customers in the low-cost carrier and other sectors. The firm also released its “CLEAR” suite.
And at Mint Software Systems, its MINT Release 10 platform declared “ready” this February, continues to mature. The product incorporates a completely redesigned software interface, new universal reporting, unified and improved permission management and the whole-new designed MINT WebPortal, just to name a few.
In the visual systems sector JVC introduced its BLU-Escent technology at the end of 2014.
The laser-phosphor design technology is integrated into the company’s DLA-VS2300 and DLA-VS2500 projectors to provide more rugged performances for the civil aviation and adjacent military training communities. John Havens, the company’s marketing manager for its Visual Systems Division, noted the new technology is designed to supplement 4,000 hour-like lamp lives that are still suitable for many uses. “There are more rugged – a variety of applications – that are not just concerned about the longevity of the illumination, but also the type of environment the projector will be utilized in. So in addition to the added ‘duty cycle’, by having a combination laser-hybrid illumination system and the robustness of its design, it allows the projector to be mounted and used at any angle – from a true landscape configuration to perpendicular and anything in between.”
The BLU-Escent technology is integrated into projectors such as the VS2300 and VS2500 which maintains the current dimensions, mounting configurations, lenses and suchlike of the legacy lamp-based projectors. “This enables anyone who is presently using JVC lamp illumination and wants to upgrade to easily swap out the projectors and within minutes, have the latest technology available.” In addition, the VS2500 projector also offers “e-shift technology ”, which provides about 40 percent more resolution and a sustained high contrast ratio – about 20,000:1. This is accomplished by taking two high definition inputs, optically offsetting them by ½ pixel in the horizontal and vertical directions, and combining them to produce a higher resolution image.
An early recipient of the new BLU-Escent technology is Rockwell Collins. Dennis Hartley, a systems engineer with Rockwell Collins, indicated the Commercial Visuals business is preparing to receive the VS2300, which will be combined with the company’s EP®-8000 image generation system for upcoming programs.
In yet another application with new JVC projectors, Rockwell Collins will use a VS2500 in a collimated visual display configuration in an A350 full flight simulator to be delivered by L3 Link to Cathay Pacific.
Hartley further commented on one anticipated return on investment for the new VS2300 and VS2500s. Legacy era JVC-2200 projectors require change out of the lamp at about 4,000 hours and the optical block at about 20,000 hours. “With the VS2300 or VS2500 projectors, you will not have to change the laser illuminator for about 35,000 hours – approximately five years into its service life.”
This April Rockwell Collins also released its EP-8100 image generation system. The new IG is reportedly able to use customers’ existing databases.
In the training devices market space, delegates at WATS 2014 witnessed the introduction of the CAE 7000XR Series, which was noted by Nick Leontidis, Group President of Civil Simulation Products, Training and Services, "to set new standards in level D full flight simulators.” Indeed, the CAE 7000XR Series was said during the unveiling ceremony to be designed to optimize life-cycle costs for its customers and address new and future training requirements. As such, the new FFS was said to have enhanced features including a re-designed instructor office with support for mobile devices and real-time data analysis and feedback, embedded training capabilities to address the new FAA regulation related to Upset Prevention and Recovery Training, and the CAE Flightscape Insight™ debriefing station with the Simulator Operational Quality Assurance system to assess training effectiveness. The CAE 7000XR Series also introduced the new CAE Sentinel diagnostic application, designed to optimize life-cycle operation by real-time monitoring, preventive and predicative maintenance, and advanced capabilities for support and troubleshooting.
Frasca expanded its portfolio in 2014 across different corporate competencies for civil aviation, university and military end users, in the US and around the globe. On the new technology front, the Urbana, Illinois-based company rolled out its new SimAssist™ software training module. Mike Phillips the company’s manager for Helicopter Business Development, explained the product “helps pilots fly without interfering with their ability to learn.” Phillips noted the product is especially suited for the helicopter community because it presents all of the mechanics of learning to coordinate the aircraft. “It allows the student to practice in gaining skill without feeling they are not doing it right. We have had really good success with this,” he explained.
Frasca, which has been fielding training devices for helicopters for about 30 years, in addition to equipment for fixed-wing models for 55 years, also launched in 2014 its TruCue™ simulator cueing and vibration system which provided critical vestibular feedback to pilots.
Victor Veltze, Frasca’s sales representative, noted that in addition to delivering its own training devices, the company continues to deliver components to integrators and other companies.
There has similarly been a high pace of activity across airline campuses in their maintenance training departments. Burnsville, Minnesota-based Aerosim set the standard early in 2014 with the delivery of its A320 Virtual Maintenance Training (VMT) classroom to Shenzhen Airlines and a single station A320 VMT to China Euro College. These deliveries built upon Aerosim’s earlier success in supplying maintenance training simulation and equipment for several airline training centers and maintenance repair activities in China, including China Southern Airlines, China Eastern, and STAECO. Aerosim’s other early 2014 sales included Airbus A320 VMT classroom and related aircraft systems courseware to UNAQ (Universidad Aeronáutica en Querétaro) (Mexico) and to TAECO (Taikoo Aircraft Engineering Company) (China) for a combination VMT classroom for the A320, A330, and A340 aircraft.
Safety Focus CAT and Halldale Group’s complementary WATS and associate conferences in Europe and Asia, have kept the community focused on airline safety – and with good reason. While the International Air Transport Association’s 2014 Safety Report noted its data show airline stakeholders have been very successful in improving aviation’s safety, at the same time 2014 was a challenging year for our industry. By one measure there were 641 fatalities from commercial aviation accidents in 2014 – increased from 210 in 2013 and above the previous five-year average of 517.
A positive safety development as this article was being submitted for publication, saw FlightSafety International receive qualification from the US Federal Aviation Administration’s National Simulator Program for the first flight simulator expanded aerodynamic model for Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT).
UPRT has been a topic on recent WATS conference agendas and remains on CAT’s editorial program.
“FlightSafety is pleased to become the first and only training provider and simulator manufacturer to receive FAA qualification for a simulator to be used during Upset Prevention and Recovery Training,” Bruce Whitman, the company’s president & CEO, said in a company statement.
The FAA evaluated and qualified the expanded aerodynamic, flight control, and motion models developed and incorporated into a Gulfstream G550 simulator for FlightSafety’s UPRT product.