In a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, Textron Inc. announced that it will halt production of commercial aviation flight simulation devices at its TRU Simulation + Training facility in Montréal, Québec, Canada, putting about 250 employees out of work. The SEC filing used the term “production suspension,” so it is unclear if or when manufacturing might resume there.
The trimming at TRU is part of a larger reduction in force across Textron affecting 1,950 positions, or about 6% of the overall company population. One report said as many as 250 positions would be eliminated at other Textron Aviation operations in the US, including 70 in Wichita, Kansas, where Textron employs more than 9,000. Jobs are also being cut at Textron Specialized Vehicles, which manufactures aircraft ground support equipment.
Contrary to some industry reports, TRU is not shuttering sim production entirely. TRU’s simulation facility in Lutz, Florida (Tampa area) is expected to continue producing business aviation, civil helicopter and military simulators. TRU recently announced it is working with sister Textron company Bell Helicopter on a flight simulator to demonstrate the capabilities of the new Bell360 Invictus rotorcraft. Other TeamInvictus partners include Collins Aerospace, MetaVR, Battlespace Simulations, iXperiential and Roush.
The former Opinicus operation, acquired by Textron in 2013 and folded into TRU the following year, will also provide ongoing support to commercial sims previously delivered from Montréal. The Lutz campus was significantly expanded as recently as 2016 to support pilot training of Textron Aviation products. The Canadian facility is the former Mechtronix, similarly acquired in 2013 to form TRU.
TRU is the second foreign-owned facility in Québec to close up owing to the Covid-19 impact on the aviation industry. Mitsubishi is grounding its Spacejet operations in Montréal and Washington State US, though it nevertheless completed acquisition of Bombardier’s CRJ regional jet programme. In a recent interview, Aéro Montréal CEO Suzanne Benoît cited the dependence of the Québec aeronautical industry on foreign multinationals, lamenting the obvious preference to favor activities in their country of origin. More than 1,000 jobs have been lost to date in the province, which Benoît said could increase to 5,000 in the coming months.
TRU’s near neighbor on the Côte de Liesse Expressway in Montréal, CAE - the world leader in flight simulators and crew training - has also laid off workers but thus far managed to limit the damage thanks to federal wage subsidies.
Ron Draper, Textron Aviation chief executive, said first-quarter profit had plummeted 97% on dismal aircraft sale, but there are now “signs for optimism” that the company and the industry are on their way to recovery.
During Q2 of 2020, with aircraft manufacturing production idled, Textron costs were in the $70-80 million range, according to the SEC filing. However, “In June,” it stated, “manufacturing operations have largely resume across the company.”