John Frasca, President and CEO of Frasca International updated Marty Kauchak, Halldale Group Editor, on an array of developments in the Illinois-based company’s expanding defense and commercial portfolios.

Halldale (H): A year ago January, Frasca announced it joined forces with FlightSafety International. Update us on some of the early outcomes the new team has realized from this partnership.

John Frasca (JF): There is a clear goal not to change Frasca as a result of the acquisition. Our existing product lines are not changing and there is a push to expand into some new aircraft types. For example, regional and commercial aircraft FTDs. Frasca has developed a lot of technology for our FTDs and we can apply this technology to new aircraft types and make more cost-effective FTDs. Some back-office services are evolving to take advantage of FlightSafety’s corporate-level resources, and this is strengthening Frasca.  

H: There are many adverse macro- and micro-economic forces the simulation and training industry is contending with. Highlight how some these challenges, from inflation to increasing interest rates to low employment rates, are impacting Frasca’s business model.

JF: A big force impacting Frasca is the pilot shortage. Training organizations are expanding and purchasing training devices; this is a positive force on our industry. We shipped a record number of simulators in 2022 despite parts and labor shortages caused by the pandemic. 

We battle these issues daily. Chip shortages are real and as result chip prices have risen significantly. Our engineering team is doing a lot of redesigns as a result of parts shortages. 

We have more employees now then pre-pandemic. However, recruiting is challenging, and it takes longer to fill engineering and manufacturing positions. 

H: Update us on the status of some of your current military programs and new defense aviation programs Frasca is eyeing to compete in.

JF: We are ahead of schedule on the delivery of TH-73 FTDs to the US Navy in Pensacola, Florida. These are Level 7+ FTDs which incorporate a Frasca Motion Cueing System and a wide field of direct view visual system. The high fidelity of these simulators allows more training to be done in the simulator. Tasks such as hover can be taught in the FTD, allowing aircraft training to be focused on checking and mission tasks.

We have just delivered several mixed-reality and desktop simulators to the US Navy.

We are in the final stages of building an H225M Level D full-flight simulator for an international military customer. The EC225 is a heavy-class helicopter used in military and commercial applications. This is our second 225 FFS. It features a Frasca data package and aero model and in addition to being a Level D FFS it incorporates features for mission training.  

For 2023 there are several upcoming opportunities, both US and international, that we have very compelling solutions for. We are pursuing several programs for types that we have already built, derivative types, and new. We are also pursuing programs related to our mixed-reality work.  

H: Commercial and military operators are quickening their pace to develop eVTOL aircraft. Share with us how Frasca is looking to compete in this market’s training segment for defense and commercial customers.  

JF: The OEMs in this space are of two minds. Those that want to do the training themselves and those that want to partner with a training provider. Frasca is in a strong position to support both approaches. We build simulators from AATDs (advanced aviation training devices) through FFSs. The technology for eVTOL simulators is much the same as for any simulator. Now that we are part of the FlightSafety organization we can also participate where the requirements are for a training provider. Frasca does not have anything to announce in this space yet, but we are involved in many discussions.    

H: We are seeing the military and civil sectors increase their use of forward-leaning technologies, from virtual reality to data. How is Frasca bringing to bear some of these enablers in its processes?

JF: Frasca and FlightSafety displayed two TH-73 Training devices at I/ITSEC in December. A fleet of these devices is being provided to the Navy through a contract with Booz Allen Hamilton. They feature mixed-reality technology integrated with two-seat cockpits complete with instrumentation and controls. Instead of a projected visual display, the pilots wear mixed-reality goggles that combine a simulated computer-generated environment with the real cockpit as seen through cameras. 

This is a step beyond virtual reality where the pilot only sees a simulated cockpit and cannot interact naturally with cockpit controls. With mixed reality they see the real cockpit as well as themselves. When they reach to turn a knob on the instrument panel, they see their hand and the knob and they feel the knob as in the real world. When they look out the windows they see the outside environment. When they look out the chin windows, they see their feet and then the out the window view below their feet. This mixed-reality approach provides a full tactile environment which VR lacks. The devices we displayed at the trade show were not prototypes; they were production units that have now been delivered.

H: Highlight some of the new products, contract starts and other major activities Halldale readers will see from Frasca in 2023.

JF: Frasca is developing a line of FTDs that will incorporate FlightSafety and Frasca technology. These will span a wide range of aircraft and will make FTDs available for more aircraft types and at a more affordable price. We will also integrate our mixed-reality technology into more aircraft types.  

Our AATDs and FTDs for the ab initio market sold very well in 2022 and we expect 2023 will be similar. The demand for new pilots is driving this as well as the need to replace older equipment with maintainable higher-fidelity devices. These are mature product lines for us that we continue to enhance by adding new features, fidelity, and connectivity.  

We recently signed a contract for our first H215 helicopter FTD. This continues to expand our catalog of helicopter models.  

2023 is shaping up to be another exciting year for Frasca. In addition to further integration with FlightSafety, expanding our product lines with new models and exploiting mixed reality we will also continue to work with partners on data analysis and instructional tools. This is an area that I feel has tremendous potential to enhance both the quality and productivity of pilot training.

H: Anything else to add?

JF: Some fear that high-fidelity simulation will result in pilots having less aircraft flight time to the detriment of safety. But to the contrary, we are seeing that high-fidelity simulation makes aircraft time more valuable. Using simulation, pilots learn in an environment sipping from a glass rather than drinking through a firehose. A curriculum that progresses through multiple levels of simulation and ends with the aircraft uses each device to its fullest.



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