Quick Look: Status of S&T Sector During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Group Editor Martin Kauchak provides a “wellness report” during the coronavirus outbreak on two S&T industry members, Frasca International and Mint Software Systems.

CAT readers are well aware of the physical and financial tolls the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact on the broad civil aviation community. While decreasing airline stock share values, cascading numbers of flight cancellations and like outcomes are still common storylines on the 24/7 news cycle, minimal attention has been paid to the well-being of simulation and training industry members.


Mint believes that once post COVID-19 exemptions are final, the community will require record-keeping modification (as on the above Mint devices) to prevent oversight and ensure compliance. Source: Mint

Tobe certain, much like other companies in the broader aerospace and defensesector, the S&T industry members which responded to the author’s editorialinvitation are similarly grappling with workforce and related challenges, asthey attempt to meet customer expectations.

Workforce issues are at the top of companies’ list of concerns during this COVID-19-era. John Frasca, president of Frasca International, Inc., reported his company continues to be as productive as possible during this time. “We’ve made many changes within our work environment for the safety of our employees. A large percentage of our team is now working from home.” Similarly, Frank Vieira Hugger, director of Sales and Marketing at Mint, recalled that to prevent the spread and protect its communities from the C-19 virus, his company decentralized its operation by mandating social distancing and home office as early as March 12th. “We have also suspended all travel to conferences or sales meetings until further notice,” he emphasized.


Source: Frasca International

These two companies, with very different core competencies, nonetheless had common ground on their concern about meeting their current and prospective customer bases’ expectations. Urbana, Illinois-based Frasca told CAT, his company wants its customers to know that it is able to respond to their needs with product and technical support. He added, “We are continuing to build existing orders and developing new technology for our simulators. We’ve shipped and installed several devices in recent months and we’ve assisted customers and agents in on-location installations.” Similarly, Mint’s Vieira Hugger said that moving to work from home did not significantly impact its operation or customer service capabilities. “Without missing a beat, we achieved 100% business capacity on day one. As a technology company with offices and customers around the globe, we are accustomed to working and collaborating effectively remotely. Our experience with cutting edge technology, including our own Mint TMS [training management system], enabled us to ensure our customers’ training operations continue without the slightest interruption.”

Tobe certain, the S&T sector is sharing some of the economic pains evidentthroughout the A&D sector. For its part, Mint has seen a move by its partnersto reduce cost and conserve cash, which resulted in a reprioritization ofprojects, schedule changes, both impacting its bottom line. Vieira Hugger elaborated,“As I stated earlier, we are working with our partners to navigate throughthese difficult times together. Internally, our team members across alldepartments are actively working on controlling costs while maintainingexceptional customer service. In this unprecedented global crisis, for us, thecall to stand together to overcome is more than a slogan; it is part of theculture we live. Though it is paradoxical, as we combat this pandemic bypracticing social distancing, we need to do the exact opposite on theoperational and economic front by closely collaborating internally and with ourpartners.”

Thetwo industry leaders are similarly looking beyond workforce changes and other adjustmentsto their business models, to move from the current business downturn. Frascaconcluded, “We want our customers to know that we are here for them and arecontinually looking for alternative ways to support them. Our goal is to beready to meet our customers’ needs when the industry and specifically flight trainingorganizations are up running again.” Vieira Hugger again noted that as a Mint customeris a Mint partner, his company is committed to working diligently with itspartners to manage and overcome this unprecedented challenge. The Kiel,Germany-based industry veteran concluded, “On the operational side, forexample, crew qualifications are set to expire due to the massive disruptioncaused by COVID-19 (e.g., social distancing). It does not take a lot ofimagination to recognize the resulting training backlog adds further stress toa system stretched to its limits. Therefore, it is encouraging to seeregulators around the world (FAA, EASA, ANAC, CASA, CAA, etc.) proactivelytaking action in working on exemptions to relieve some of the operationalpressure our partners are experiencing. That said, these exemptions, oncefinal, will require record-keeping modification to prevent oversight and ensurecompliance. MINT’s internal task force of experts keeps a close eye on theregulatory requirements and limitations of the various agencies. Once theexemptions are final, we will consult and assist our partners in taking actionefficiently by maximizing the Mint TMS functionalities.”

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