Singapore Air Show

CAE expands south China sim center

 - December 6, 2006, 11:14 AM

CAE is expanding its flight training center at Zhuhai in southern China by building a satellite complex to accommodate six more full flight simulators (FFSs). The addition will increase the total number of simulators to 16 in a facility that is run as a joint venture with China Southern Airlines.

At the same time, the Canadian flight training group is actively preparing to build at least one new facility in India. According to Jeff Roberts, president of CAE Civil Training & Services, the expansion into India will happen “sooner rather than later” and will almost certainly be done in partnership with one or more of the country’s fast-growing airlines.

However, Roberts also argued that rapidly building a sizable network of training centers in India isn’t necessarily the best way to address India’s acknowledged pilot shortage. CAE’s analysis of the situation shows that India does not have sufficient numbers of people with basic levels of flight training to benefit from such local infrastructure even if it could be built overnight. It believes that Indian carriers would be better served to build their rosters using other training facilities in the region, such as CAE’s facilities in Singapore and in Dubai (just two hours from most of central India).

Along with other leading flight training providers, CAE is in the final stages of working with the International Civil Aviation Organization to refine the curriculum and course content for the new multi-crew pilot licensing (MCPL) training structure. MCPL is intended to more safely and efficiently produce a new generation of airline pilots, taking into account the fact that more of them now come from a civil, rather than a military background. It will harness increased simulator technology to provide a cost-effective and comprehensive way for airline pilots to gain experience rather than having to build hours in flying environments that do not necessarily match those they will encounter when they join carriers as first officers.

“It is a nontraditional approach that will include better training for issues such as human factors and congested airspace,” Roberts explained. In CAE’s view, the MCPL approach is particularly well suited to the Asia/Pacific region where rapid air transport growth means there is strong demand to increase the supply of commercial pilots.

The company expects to be offering MCPL training by the fourth quarter of this year. In addition to increasing use of FFSs at its training centers, CAE is also encouraging airlines to incorporate more Web-based training and procedures training to strengthen the continual education process for their crews.

The Zhuhai facility has now trained more than 3,000 pilots, as well as some 500 instructors during last year alone. In addition to the China Southern crews, the center works with pilots from up to 50 third-party training customers.

The FFSs at Zhuhai already include units for the Airbus A320 family, the Embraer ERJ 145 regional jet, and for the Boeing 737 (Classic and New Generation), 777 and 757. The Singapore facility currently focuses on the A320 airliners, while a new joint venture facility with AirAsia in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur houses 737 simulators.

Here in Singapore today, AirAsia will confirm an order for two of CAE’s A320 full flight simulators and a pair of A320 Simfinity maintenance/flight training devices. The training devices can be converted for alternative use as B737 integrated procedures trainers.

More Realism, Less Sterile Training

Developing a full flight simulator (FFS) for Boeing’s new 787 airliner is one of the next big challenges for CAE (Stand A1107). This work is part of Project Phoenix through which the Canadian group will invest $550 million in research and development over the next six years to advance aviation training technology.
According to Marc Parent, CAE’s group president for simulation products, the research will aim to make the training environment more realistic. “We want to get away from a sterile environment and to create more realistic scenarios for pilots,” he told Aviation International News. This means, for example, incorporating all the air traffic control chatter so that crews face a higher training workload and more distractions.

Advances in simulator software could also allow scenarios such as runway incursions and traffic collision avoidance episodes to be more randomly (and less predictably) introduced during training sessions. “We want to give the pilots and instructors more than just canned events at the push of a button,” said Parent.

CAE applies advanced software throughout its Simfinity training equipment portfolio, from the level-D FFS units, through the 3-D training devices to the 2-D desktop systems. “Fidelity of the simulation is the cornerstone of what we offer and we have always sought both to increase the technology available and to lower training costs,” said Parent. CAE’s goal is for crews to do more training outside the very costly FFSs by practicing systems and procedures seamlessly between the various training devices. “The idea is that the program will react the same way whichever device the pilot is using,” he explained. In this regard the motion and visual systems of the FFSs are the main differentiator between them and the array of training devices.

The Simfinity range of PC-based training devices isn’t a question of one-size-fits-all. For example, CAE has provided U.S. airliner JetBlue with custom-designed units including tactile representations of cockpit control panels, throttle quadrants and flight management systems so that their pilots can literally get a feel for the flight deck.

The company’s training devices for maintenance technicians now include full built-in test capability to allow them to run through precisely the same procedures that would apply with the real aircraft. “What we are trying to avoid is negative training which can happen if the simulator is not full representative of the way the aircraft itself operates in real life conditions,” said Parent. By this he means that if personnel don’t experience bona fide malfunctions that can happen in actual operations they might find themselves worse off than if they hadn’t had the training at all.

Last November, CAE launched its new Medallion-6000 series of visual systems. These harness the realism of commercial systems developed for applications such as computer games, incorporating the latest image generation software and projector technology. “We have also used satellite imagery so that what is presented looks exactly like the real-world,” said Parent.

CAE Prepares A380 Simulators

CAE is now fine-tuning the A380 simulators that it has developed for both Emirates Airline and Australia’s Qantas. These units are due to be delivered later this year as the two carriers prepare to start commercial operations with the super-large airliner next year.

The first A380 simulator actually started “flying” before the first A380 prototype itself took to the air. The training units have progressively evolved as more and more data has been generated from the flight test program. Airbus already has two A380 full flight simulators at its Toulouse headquarters that it is using for crew training.