The 23rd edition of WATS will be the center of the civil aviation training universe in late April. Robert W. Moorman previews some exhibitors’ plans for the event.

What innovative training solutions are being offered to the civil aviation market? That question will be answered during the 2020 World Aviation Training Summit (WATS) at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida, from 28-30 April. Companies from around the globe often unveil their new training-related products at WATS, the largest gathering of aviation training professionals in the world. Thus far, 80+ exhibitors and 1,200-plus attendees have signed up.

“All indicators are for a very robust event and it looks as if the expo floor will be sold out, including using all the new space available this year,” said Andy Smith, President and Owner of the Halldale Group, which annually stages WATS, AAETS (Asian Aviation Education and Training Symposium), APATS (Asia Pacific Airline Training Symposium) and EATS (European Airline Training Symposium), as well as publishing Civil Aviation Training (CAT) and Military Simulation and Training (MS&T) magazines and the new Safety Critical Training (SCT) eNewsletter and conference.

“We are seeing more first-time exhibitors and some are exhibiting the XR technologies that airlines are keen to investigate,” Smith added. “We expect more AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) applications in the expo hall. We are also pleased to welcome the Virtual Reality/Augmented
Reality Association (VR/ARA) ( and
Air Transport Association of Canada ( as Media

The conference program is designed to reflect the safety-critical issues most affecting civil aviation training, according to Rick Adams, Editor of CAT, who is also Chair of WATS. The speaking agenda addresses four separate interest tracks: World Airline Pilot Training, Regional Airline Pilot Training, Aviation Maintenance Training, and Cabin Crew Training. “Our speakers represent leading airlines, training providers, academicians, scientists, regulators and others with an amazing depth of expertise in all facets of aviation training around the globe. Their comments are always candid, as is the interaction with WATS delegates in the conference rooms, exhibit area and hallways.”

Here is a preview of some of what is expected to be featured at WATS:

Collins Aerospace, a unit of United Technologies, will present its EP-8100 image generation system for civil and military rotorcraft. Whereas most image generators are built on video graphic cards, the EP-8100 is driven by graphics cards and software designed specifically for simulation and training applications, according to Collins. The IG, which meets FAA Level D simulator requirements, will have life cycle support in excess of 15 years.

This latest innovation from Collins is part of the ongoing evolution of training devices, which initially focused mainly on reducing costs and increasing realism through technological advancements. Customers continue to ask for affordable solutions, of course. “However, as we look forward over the next five years and beyond, there is an increased interest in training effectiveness and the ability to train distributively, such as on-demand training,” said Nick Scarnato, Director of Global Strategy, Training and Mission Solutions, Collins Aerospace.

The FAA has ordered a Head-Up Display from Collins to use for scientific research in areas such as pilot-HUD interface, pilot performance and crew workload. The trainer can reduce the time it takes a pilot to become familiar with HUD technology, “making them more productive once pilots enter a full flight simulator or live flight,” noted Nick Gibbs, Collins Vice President and General Manager, Simulation and Training Solutions. The HUD training device also will be displayed at WATS.

Boeing Global Services plans to showcase the depth of its training portfolio at WATS. Boeing Learning Solutions, which provides training systems for individuals as well as aviation and maintenance training organizations (ATO/MTO), will discuss its ab initio content, which can be used for self-study, ground school and distance learning. Boeing’s Maintenance Training Services will showcase a virtual tour at WATS, which contains a virtual airplane created to augment and automate learning within the classroom and on the job.

Boeing also plans to present numerous hardware training tools, which include: the simulated Mode Control Panel (simMCP), a replicated hardware and software of aircraft MC; and the next-generation 737 simulated Common Display System (simCDS), a simulated hardware and software of an aircraft CDS system.

The company will highlight the latest iteration of Jeppesen’s FlightDeck Pro, a mobile airline charting application, and its companion Aviator product, which, with FliteDeck Pro, provides pilots with flight briefing, weather data and utility tools in a single application.

A pilot trainee can interact with an instructor, training partner or a virtual instructor in this new VR flight trainer. Image credit: Airbus.

Airbus Training Services, which tripled its training locations worldwide in the last few years, will display its latest virtual training solutions and provide demonstrations of the Airbus Cockpit Experience (ACE) VR laptop trainer and the Airbus Competence Trainer (ACT) for flight and maintenance training. A derivative of the ACT Suite, dubbed the ACT for Academy, developed for college and university curricula, will be showcased on the exhibition floor. The A320 version of ACE was unveiled in January.

With regard to Airbus’ ab initio training program, Airbus is looking to extend its network with new flight school partners. “Airbus Training’s objective is to provide safety and efficiency in an airline’s operations,” said Michael Chemouny, Head of Training Services at Airbus. “Thanks to the OEM expertise, airlines have the opportunity to turn their training costs into a competitive advantage.”

He added: “Airbus is well aware of the operational and financial constraints exposed to airlines. We work continuously to ensure we maintain the highest level of training whilst studying solutions to provide both effective teaching and training tools whilst optimizing training costs. We will provide more details on these solutions in the coming months.”

Airbus has been a leader in immersive technology, as demonstrated by its 360° Virtual Cabin for cabin crew training, VR flight trainer and the Virtual Engine run-up solution used in maintenance training in partnership with Air France.

In the maintenance domain, Airbus expanded its basic maintenance training program to include recurrent to meet the demand for new aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs) over the next 20 years.

Christian Delmas, Head of Airbus Maintenance, is a featured speaker at WATS. He will provide insights on maintenance training value creation and answer other questions on the company’s training solutions.

A High-Growth Market

One front-and-center topic is the pressing need for more commercial airline pilots due to projected fleet and route growth, which has led to pilot, maintainer and instructor shortages. “A strong shortage of commercial airline pilots is driving a lot of simulator sales these days,” noted John Frasca, President and CEO, Frasca International, a simulator provider and WATS exhibitor. “Some airlines are desperate to find pilots. Schools are seeing record enrollments and finding qualified flight instructors is a challenge.”

TRU Simulation + Training is showcasing its TRU Control Loading System, which offers added improvement to the company’s RealFeel loaders, including reduced cost, weight and lifecycle costs.

TRU is likely to provide details of its new Odyssey 7 flight training device it sold to Emirates Flight Training recently. The Odyssey 7 is “substantially less costly but can be shown to provide the same accelerations and motion cueing found on much more expensive platforms like FFSs,” said David Smith, TRU CEO. The company will show concepts of the Odyssey at WATS.

Smith said the company would continue to expand its use of virtual reality on training solutions, but the technology does not radically change the training industry. “We are pursuing several product lines, which offer comprehensive disruption of today’s approach to pilot training,” he said, adding that specifics would come in the months ahead.

L3Harris' Pilot Pathways programs in the US and UK are enabling women, veterans and other airline aspirants. Image credit: L3Harris Technologies.

L3Harris Technologies, whose portfolio includes Commercial Training Solutions, will demonstrate the capabilities of its newly integrated Flight Data Services business, which was acquired in 2019. Through the acquisition, L3Harris expanded its expertise in monitoring of airline and other flight data.

Pilot training methodologies continue to evolve. L3Harris’ training solutions enhance the quality of training while also expanding data collection capabilities to assess the pilot’s performance. Data collection and assessment by instructors augments pilots’ training before they transition to a full flight simulator. “This is part of our evidence-based training approach where we are looking to detailed data analysis on pilots’ performance,” said Mitesh Patel, Vice President of Products, Commercial Training Solutions, L3Harris. “The more data collated on a trainee’s performance, the more effectively we can manage and customize our programs.”

VR/AR technology is developing rapidly and is being used as an important tool to support the training solutions of L3Harris and other training solution providers. “These tools are engaging and immersive for our trainees, testing and improving their cognitive and perceptual abilities in ways that cannot be achieved in regular applications,” said Patel.

L3Harris’ recent contract wins include a new A320 RealitySeven FFS and Enhanced Flat Panel Training (EFPT) to Saudi Arabian Airlines; 10 new FTDs to Spirit Airlines, which includes two Level 5 A320 CEO/NEO convertible FTDs; an A320 FFS to Airbus for its Miami Training Center; and a B787-9 FFS for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines training center at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands.

At WATS, L3Harris will likely discuss its Pilot Pathways Program, which is aimed at lowering the barriers of entry to flight schools, including financial support. The company launched the US Female Aviators Scholarship in partnership with St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Airlines. Through the scholarship, five cadets each received a $12,500 scholarship from L3Harris toward their training costs. One cadet received $50,000 and was offered a spot in the SkyWest Airlines Pilot Pathway Program.

FlightSafety International, a long-time WATS exhibitor, will brief attendees about FlightSmart, a new, fully integrated training tool it developed with IBM, a leader in advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. FlightSmart, which collects and analyzes pilot performance data during instruction, is expected to raise the bar for personalized, effective pilot training.


Said FlightSafety President and CEO David Davenport: “This revolutionary approach employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to evaluate a pilot’s ability while performing critical tasks and maneuvers during all phases of flight.”


With FlightSmart, instructors have a full understanding of a pilot’s strengths and weaknesses through access to real-time data, which measures performance against the highest standard parameters. Instructors can address any deficiencies proactively by focusing on areas that need improvement, as opposed to “repetitive actions rooted in a fixed syllabus,” the company stated. “This facilitates a departure from qualitative-based instruction toward evidence and competency-based training.”

FlightSmart will have applications in the civil and military world. FlightSafety received a contract from the US Air Force Air Education and Training Command (AETC), headquartered at Randolph Air Force Base, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. AETC is the primary training and professional education command in the USAF. FlightSmart will be used on 16 T6A training devices, including Initial and Operational Trainers. The contract includes options to expand to other AETC bases.

In the future, FlightSmart will be expanded to include aircraft maintenance technicians and operators of unmanned systems. (For more on FlightSmart, see Marty Kauchak’s feature on Big Data, page X of this issue).

Precision Flight Controls and Ryan Aerospace developed the VR-based HeliMod MkIII for teaching rotary pilots vertical reference and external slingloads handling. Image credit: PFC.

Sacramento, California-based Precision Flight Controls, makers of flight training devices, could bring its new VR-based fixed-wing jet trainer to WATS, according to company spokesperson Daniel Shreves. Precision has a joint venture with Ryan Aerospace of Australia to produce an Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD) which is reconfigurable between the Bell 206 and Bell 407 helicopters but can be used as a generic rotary-wing trainer. The JV also produces a single-seat HeliMod modular, reconfigurable helicopter training device and a dual-seat HeliCrew FTD, which comes in a variety of aircraft types.

The JV is developing an emergency management services device for training EMS operators conducting search-and-rescue (SAR) or firefighting operations.

Area9 Lyceum, producers of software-enabled adaptive learning solutions, which combines technology and cognitive research, will discuss training of various airline employees. Adaptive learning is being touted as a better and more cost-effective method than the standard “chalk-n-talk” form of instruction.

Area9 helped one airline move from three separate systems for crew scheduling to one standardized platform, with the aid of adaptive learning processes. The company recently released its fourth generation learning platform: Area9 Rhapsode, for training personnel.

Hinfact, human factors experts, will officially launch the commercialization of its software suite at WATS, HinSight. The suite is a data-driven, real-time support tool for instructors during and after simulator training sessions. HinSight also provides support for trainers by providing insights and analytics based on the training sessions.

“We combine flight data analysis with our human factors expertise to provide useful information to the instructors at the right moment,” Hinfact CEO Thomas Bessiere told CAT. “Moreover, we allow dynamic digital grading based on EBT standards to support the implementation of this new standard.”

Data analysis has become a useful tool in enhancing simulator pilot training. “The difficulty for most of them [trainers] is to extract the most useful information to support both instructors and the head of training,” Bessiere said, adding that there is a strong need for human factors analytics because it’s a key aspect of flight operations. CAE RISE and FlightSafety’s FlightSmart and other tools support the use of data in training. “But there are not many solutions on the market to address the human factors part,” he added.

Separately, Hinfact partnered with SmartEye on that company’s AI-powered eye-tracking technology as a tool for pilot training. The tool tracks the pilot’s gaze during instruction, which allows the instructor to better monitor the pilot in critical training situations. The eye-tracking technology, coupled with Hinfact’s GazeCraft tool, results in a better-trained pilot. Pilots spend most of their time monitoring flight parameters and aircraft performance in flight, according to Solmaz Shahmehr, Vice President, Research Instruments, Smart Eye.

CAE, a perennial presence at WATS, posted numerous noteworthy announcements in 2019 that signal continued growth and partnerships for the commercial training sector.

In August 2020, CAE announced it would train 700-plus new pilots over the next decade for Southwest Airlines at its Phoenix, Arizona academy. The initiative is part of the airline’s 225% Program. “There is a growing need for airline pilots and this program will set a new standard in initial pilot training,” said Nick Leontidis, CAE Group President, Civil Aviation Training Solutions. CAE will screen, assess and train cadets selected by Southwest Airlines.

In September, CAE unveiled a partnership with new Korean low-cost carrier, Fly Gangwon. Philippine Airlines, an existing CAE customer, signed a new two-year agreement with Singapore CAE Flight Training and JAL CAE Flight Training joint ventures. CAE announced the sale of two Boeing 777X FFSs and related training suites of the CAE XR Series models. CAE and Avianca opened a new CAE training center in Bogota, Colombia, together with a 15-year exclusive pilot training agreement. CAE’s Bogota center has the capacity to train around 2,500 pilots per year, said Leontidis.