Textron’s TRU Dives into Business Aircraft Training

 - August 1, 2014, 3:30 AM

An acquisitive Textron has assembled a new flight simulator manufacturing and training company–TRU Simulation + Training–that its leaders believe will offer strong competition to entrenched players FlightSafety International and CAE. TRU’s president and CEO is James Takats, one of the founders of Florida-based simulator manufacturer Opinicus, which became a Textron property in November last year. After also snapping up Montreal-based Mechtronix last December, Textron combined the two companies with a portion of its former AAI Logistics and Technical Services division to form TRU.

Last month, TRU entered the training center market by acquiring ProFlight, a Cessna CitationJet and Conquest training provider based in Carlsbad, Calif. The combined entities mean that TRU now employs about 500 people in California; Florida; Montreal; and Providence, R.I., but the company is pursuing an aggressive hiring process to expand its new capabilities, including building training centers modeled after the ProFlight template.

“ProFlight, an FAA Part 142-approved training operation, is an important next step as we build our business aviation pilot training capabilities,” Textron chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly said July 17 during the company’s second-quarter earnings call. “On the training side, it [will be] oriented toward our platforms: Cessna Citations, King Airs and Bell [helicopters]. We would expect that business to grow as we introduce new products and start to do more and more training with our new customers that come on line for those platforms.”

Takats had always hoped to turn Opinicus into a major player in the simulator manufacturing and training market. “It’s different, but there are opportunities we didn’t have when I was with Opinicus. This is an opportunity to be a global company.”

He sees the market for pilot training growing in response to demand from not only airlines but also business aircraft operators. “Our growth projections are significant,” he said. Textron tends to build businesses in industries that have just three major competitors, and TRU fits nicely into that model, according to Takats. TRU is targeting four market segments: air transport; mission logistics and maintenance; business aviation and military; and training centers and services.

Takats admires ProFlight’s approach to training, which includes programs such as 365-day access to training centers for pilots who want to train between currency events, absence of a “check-the-box” mentality and ProFlight’s innovative online distance-learning ground school. “Textron has committed to invest heavily in this side of the business,” he said.

Simulators, Procedure Trainers and Desktops

Last month at the Farnborough airshow, TRU announced an exclusive deal to build full-flight simulators for the Boeing 737 Max. The agreement includes the 737 Max FFS X simulators, flight and procedures trainers with 3-D hardware components and desktop trainers for virtual cockpit training in the classroom. TRU also builds full-flight simulators for the 737-700 and -800.

TRU signed an agreement with Bell Helicopter last month to build the 525 Relentless full-flight simulator, which will be certified to level-D standards. TRU’s Odyssey H FFS technology uses a high-definition visual system with 240-degree horizontal by 80-degree vertical field ofview.

Another opportunity that Takats is interested in pursuing is the market for avionics training, which he sees as fragmented and poorly served. “We are discussing with avionics manufacturers how we can [offer] that,” he said. “We’re looking for partnerships.”

Meanwhile, TRU engineers are working on an entirely new generation of simulators, code-named SuperSim.