FlightSafety International and Frasca: 1+1 = More

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CAT-KauchakFSI-interview

Group Editor Marty Kauchak interviewed FlightSafety International’s Nathan Speiser, EVP Sales & Marketing and Kelly Reich, SVP Strategic Operations.

In another major consolidation in the US aerospace and defense industry, last December 31 FlightSafety International (FSI) acquired Frasca International.

Speiser pointed out both companies continue to implement the details of this new corporate structure and solidify their business plan. The executive emphasized, “This is also going to be a differentiator as it allows us to provide flight training devices spanning the entire FAA and EASA regulatory level, from 1 to 7 – up to the full-flight Level D simulator. This is going to be a great complement to our portfolio, allowing us to offer all of that, and leverage the best of both companies going forward.” Given the strong, complementary portfolios of the two legacy companies, Speiser added, “We’re both very good at what we do. You’re not going to see us drastically change anything. There will be much more subtle improvements – a lot of information sharing, best practice sharing, and consolidating.”

Targeting the Pilot Shortage

FSI continues to eye opportunities to address the commercial aviation community’s pilot shortages. To that end, Speiser called attention to FSI’s recent agreement with the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) for naming rights to the SAFECON National Championship. With this commitment, the event becomes SAFECON National Championship Powered by FlightSafety. The executive added, “We’re always looking for ways to support the next generation of pilots. We thought this was a great fit for us. We think getting people excited about flying while they are in college, the competition aspect, are hugely important, so we completed this five-year deal to continue supporting that.”

AAM and UASs

This March, FSI also signed a three-way memorandum of understanding with Lilium, makers of an all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) jet and NetJets. Under this agreement FSI will provide products and services, such as courseware, training devices and crew training to support Lilium jet operations. This outcome appears to be a natural progression of FSI’s engagement with the eVTOL community, with Speiser noting his company is a member of about 40 steering committees, thought leadership groups and other collaborative bodies seeking to further advance this sector. The executive noted FSI’s extensive background in the commercial and military rotorcraft sectors is allowing it to overlay its baseline simulation and training technologies on the eVTOL space. “We’re excited about our role with Lilium and the broader industry.”

FSI’s Reich added another perspective to the rapidly evolving civil aviation market, offering that one needs to look at the sector in two emerging segments, advanced air mobility (AAM) and unmanned air systems (UASs). “What’s interesting is they start to blend at some point. We’ve had multiple conversations with potential OEMs as well. What’s also interesting about eVTOL, or AAM, is some are going straight to unmanned. Others initially to manned – with the intent to convert to unmanned. That provides an intriguing aspect to the training environment, for building systems and training structures to make that transition – to unmanned.”

Reich also called attention to initial regulatory guidance on eVTOLs issued by FAA and EASA, adding, “It’s starting to become more formative from that perspective, and giving more solid direction and ways to manage those activities.”

Diving a bit deeper into the huge implications for the simulation and technology community to meet eVTOL requirements, the industry veteran pointed to the emerging different and dynamic strategies among eVTOL manufacturers. While some vehicle prototypes use vectored thrust, others have tilt rotor designs – for starters. “There’s a little bit of anything from that standpoint. And then there’s a combination of both – for example, vertical lift with forward thrust. All of those provide opportunities for us in how we train, and that becomes a systems issue in how these are developed.”

Big Data Keeps Rolling

Big data is a topic of increasing importance across the civil as well as defense aviation communities. FSI is focused on big data from the perspective of collecting data and using that data to better train flight crews. Reich said, “This is not about just being proficient pilots but making them fully prepared. As we use data to help us understand that information, it helps us adjust and shift our training to meet those needs based off what the data tell us we need to focus on. This is something that is really important to us.”

To help illustrate the point, the corporate executive called attention to FSI’s partnership with GE Digital and its anonymized C-FOQA (Corporate-Flight Operations Quality Assurance) data. “GE has a great relationship with a larger number of operators to take in that data and they have a really good way to parse it. We simply give them parameters and they can parse that data very, very well, so we can focus specifically on certain content or safety areas. And this is data coming from outside – off airplanes. We’re just looking at trends and data to say, ‘What do we need to do differently to make sure pilots are prepared, but also totally safe in their operations?’”

Immersive Learning Enablers

FSI is also advancing maintenance training for this industry, with student immersion in scenarios being an instructional design foundation. The strategy may be completed at different levels, from computer-based training up through the use of virtual reality headsets. An expanding list of manufacturers, OEMs and others in the A&D industry is working with FSI-furnished maintenance training. Of special interest, Pratt & Whitney Canada, is a key partner for FSI.

One instance of FSI’s expanding portfolio for this market can be seen in training for Pilatus aircraft. In this case, FSI is launching Virtual Aircraft, an immersive 3D learning experience aimed to assist students and instructors in exploring the aircraft within the classroom as if they were out on the flight line.

Beyond the above use case for VR in FSI’s maintenance training products, CAT is also seeing increased interest in mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR) in pilot and cabin crew training programs. As another data point on the future demand for these training enablers, Reich concluded, “I think the future takes us into the AR world, and MR in some other segments. AR is really interesting with the biggest challenge there being the device – to enable these devices to work effectively without being overly cumbersome and difficult to use. There are some new technologies we are going to see by some big-name providers of computer-devices and phones that will start coming out in the next year. That will probably change and adapt some of that fairly quickly.”

FSI at WATS 2022

Delegates at next week’s WATS 2022will have opportunities to further engage with Michael Vercio, Senior Vice President, Simulation Systems – a speaker in the Pilot Conference - and other FSI team members at exhibit booth #121.

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