FlightSafety International (FSI) continues to expand its training center here at Farnborough Airport. In a visit to the site ahead of this week’s Farnborough International Airshow, AIN was able to sample its capabilities in training using the latest equipment and simulators–mainly focused on business aircraft, although the company as a whole trains for airlines as well. The U.S.-based group, which opened the Farnborough facility in 2005, has 40 learning centers in total around the world.
The majority of the Farnborough center’s 95,000 sq ft of floor space is taken up by three simulator halls, although it also boasts 27 classrooms and 30 briefing rooms, and has just over 120 employees (70 on the instructing side and the rest support staff).
Hall A has a Gulfstream G550, Bombardier Challenger 605, Hawker 800, Hawker 400 and Dash 8 Q400 turboprop. As impressive as these full-motion level-D simulators are, the most impressive thing is that FlightSafety designs and builds all its own simulators at its Broken Arrow base near Tulsa, Oklahoma (where the factory has just been increased in size to 375,000 sq ft).
“We now have the capacity to build 19 simulators simultaneously,” said communications vice president Steve Phillips. “The facility is running at near full capacity.” The company expects “to deliver around 30 simulators this year,” with notable recent deliveries including the A320, G550 and Sikorsky HH-60G.
The Middle Hall (Hall B) has a Hawker 800 and 750, a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter and a King Air 200, while Hall C has smaller business jets: the Cessna Citation Excel, Bravo, CJ2, Mustang and Sovereign. The center currently has 15 full-motion simulator bays.
Firmly on the company’s agenda is bringing in Embraer simulators. FSI is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Group, the same parent company as the NetJets fractional-ownership specialist, which has ordered some 75 Embraer Phenom aircraft. FSI has been the official training provider for Embraer for all its aircraft types except the Phenom, which marked company’s entry into the market for purpose-built business jets rather than corporate/VIP versions of its regional jets. “So we’re getting the Phenom, too,” said assistant center manager Anthony van de Geest, who was part of the original team that set up the Farnborough center.
On the regional airliner side of the business, FSI helps UK carrier Flybe to run its new training center at Exeter, in southwest England, having shipped one of its Q400 simulators there, joining an Embraer E190 model.
The Farnborough center sees just fewer than 3,000 “clients” (which is what FSI calls pilots) a year, said van de Geest. They are split into around 85 percent taking recurrent (refresher) training with the other 15 percent taking initial type-rating training. Typically, a type-rating course takes from 10 days to as much as a month, depending on the complexity of the aircraft, while recurrent training takes four to five days.
The main geographic area of focus is Europe, the Middle East and Africa, although 80 percent of its business comes from Europe. Van de Geest, said, “We’re seeing growth out of Africa; for example, from Nigeria.” Farnborough is a popular location with clients, he added, especially as it is in the same time zone as Africa and almost the same as the Middle East. “From a European perspective it is a good location, although the pilots might prefer a shopping trip to the States for their training,” he joked, adding that Farnborough Airport owner TAG Aviation is supportive of the center growing. The majority of the airport’s operators are corporate aircraft operators.
FSI operates several centers in the U.S.: the primary ones being in Dallas, Texas; Savannah, Georgia; Wichita, Kansas; and Wilmington, Delaware. It also has a Paris center (at Le Bourget Airport) and two Embraer simulators located in Australia through a housing agreement with rival CAE. More recently it installed a G550 simulator at its Hong Kong center, which is based in the Cathay Pacific facility.
“We are looking at establishing our own facility in Hong Kong,” said van de Geest, who added that in Johannesburg the company has a Beech 1900D (the second largest 1900D fleet in the world is in Africa, operating mainly with aid agencies) and a Q300, which is now used primarily by operators from Kenya and Tanzania. It previously was used by South Africa’s SA Express, which has sold its Q300s and replaced them with Q400s.
The company’s latest project is to build the first two Gulfstream G650 simulators, which are intended for the Savannah center (Gulfstream is based in Savannah), while the Farnborough center hopes it will receive the third device to be built. The aircraft itself has quickly built up a healthy order book, so the simulators will be in demand, Dennis Simon, G450/550 program manager at FSI Farnborough told AIN.