The soundtrack at SIMCOM Aviation Training’s new center in Lake Nona (Orlando), Florida could not have been more perfect at its grand opening last month.

As aviation industry visionaries and leaders filed into a conference room, eager to learn more about the 95,000-square-foot facility in Orlando’s Lake Nona region, which will eventually house 12 full flight flight simulators and six non-motion simulators, Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” sounded over the speakers. 

But the light touch, while providing some levity, also managed to lift the mood on a celebration of some of the serious work that SIMCOM does.

“Everybody understands that it’s about making everyone safer and better prepared,” said SIMCOM CEO Eric Hinson, a former US Navy pilot. “It’s what we come to work to do every day.”

The new facility opens with operational, full-flight simulators of a Gulfstream G650, Bombardier Challenger 3500, two Embraer Praetor 600s and a Phenom 300.

The space will also have a Pilatus PC-12 series 9, PC-12NG and Daher TBM-700, -850 and -940 simulators.

That’s a long way since the company debuted in Orlando in 1990, housing a Piper Navajo and Cessna 421 simulator.

“If you take somebody training in the 1980s and you compare that experience with the technology available today, that difference is night and day,” Hinson said.

The Lake Nona training center will include two customer lounges, digital classrooms, briefing rooms and a 156-seat auditorium. 

It will enable the teaching of more than 10,000 students at the center.

The Lake Nona site is SIMCOM’s fourth, joining two others in Orlando and one in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Airline training effectiveness took center stage recently when a door blew off the side of a Boeing 737 Max 9, operating as Air Alaska Flight 1282 while mid-flight at 16,000 feet this January 5. The pilot requested and received clearance to bring the plane down to 10,000 feet, which is the altitude where breathing the air is safe, and flight attendants kept passengers calm.

“When we think about the safety we enjoy, we sometimes take it for granted,” Marc Parent, president and CEO of CAE, said at the grand opening. “But that person being trained will be prepared for the moment that matters.”

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The new facility opens with operational, full-flight simulators of a Gulfstream G650, Bombardier Challenger 3500, two Embraer Praetor 600s (one above) and a Phenom 300.
Source/credit: Halldale Group/Marco Santana.

Deliberate Site Selection Decision 

The placement of the Lake Nona training site was deliberately chosen.

As Lake Nona sought to create a future-ready, walkable neighborhood, SIMCOM was pursuing its fourth location.

The idea was to integrate the training facility with its surrounding neighbors, Tavistock Senior Managing Director Ben Weaver said. 

“This leading-edge facility not only signifies a major advancement in pilot training but also represents the vibrant spirit of innovation that Lake Nona is known for. We are excited to see their continued and significant impact on the aviation industry,” he said. 

Ken Ricci, principal of Directional Aviation Capital and chairman of Flexjet, said it was important to be near Lake Nona’s main attractions. 

“Right now, aviation training is very isolated,” he said. “It’s kind of a lonely endeavor. But we wanted to create something where people want to come here.”

Initially, the building was not necessarily going to be on Nemours Parkway, one of Lake Nona’s most-visible roads, Ricci said.

However, Ricci said the company pushed for greater visibility because the goal was to build a building that could mesh with others in the area.

“We are not a data center,” he said. “People will want to see our facility. They were hesitant but it was an important pursuit. This is the perfect spot.” 

The perfect spot, that is, to strive for perfection, Hinson said.

“The goal remains the same,” he said. “We should strive, as an industry, to have no fatalities. Until we reach that, we can’t stop.”

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