Eurocopter beefs up training services

 - September 13, 2006, 11:39 AM

In May Eurocopter launched Eurocopter Training Services (ETS), its full-fledged training subsidiary. It offers dedicated training for the recently introduced avionics in the European manufacturer’s products. The company also wanted to reap the fruits of a growing training market for helicopter pilots and maintenance technicians. The company expands on the training services that Eurocopter used to provide.

According to ETS CEO Pierre Tchoukavoff, today’s cockpits, with their multifunction displays, require a new approach to flight management and flight-management training. Putting pilots accustomed to analog instruments directly into a full-flight simulator is too dramatic a change, he maintains. “Without adequate training, pilots would tend to be constantly head-down,” he said.

ETS is thus offering what it considers to be a smoother, more gradual transition. It includes laptop computer-based light training devices, part-task trainers and flight training devices. It will also offer, beginning next year, Web-based training to help pilots and technicians familiarize themselves with the systems without leaving their home base.

“My most valuable asset is human resources,” Tchoukavoff asserted. His team comprises seasoned pilots, skilled in such difficult operations as offshore flying. Instructors are also chosen for their skills at developing rapport with students, he said. ETS furnishes advanced on-site training by providing, for example, a pilot instructor to oversee entry into service of a commercial 24-seat EC 225 in the North Sea. It also provides special training such as night-vision goggles operations.

“We want our customers to draw the best from their modern helicopters,” Tchoukavoff said, and they should use new avionics to reduce their workload.

The new approach to training must be mission-oriented, the CEO believes. New flight decks allow constant, real-time system monitoring, and using all their capabilities calls for enhanced crew coordination, Tchoukavoff emphasized. To this end, ETS provides crew resource management courses.

Under the auspices of European JAR FCL2 regulations, ETS houses a flight-training organization. Helisim, housed in a neighboring building that accommodates several helicopter full-flight simulators, is an unofficial extension of ETS. Formally it is not, because it is jointly owned by Eurocopter, Thales and consulting firm DCI. However, customers can consider Helisim-provided type-rating training part of the ETS package. Moreover, since Helisim’s 2002 inception, the sign on the building has read “Helisim, Eurocopter training services.”

Another reason Eurocopter formed ETS was in response to customer demand. According to Tchoukavoff, a benefit of the beefed-up training services is the direct contact with customers. “Training is at the end of the supply chain. Therefore, we get the customer’s voice live,” he said.

Among its other services, ETS can help customers identify their training needs, a service generally targeted at operators of large fleets, such as states.

On the maintenance side, ETS claims to be answering new needs, providing training in the areas of composite material repair and deep maintenance, which includes every task between intermediate maintenance and D-level checks.

Technicians can train on dedicated helicopter and engine mockups. These are not airworthy but are exact replicas of the actual aircraft. They feature transparent panels to make internal systems visible. Under EASA Part 147, ETS includes a maintenance training organization.

The company’s customers are split evenly between the civil and military sectors. ETS’s revenue target for this year is $25 million (E20 million). Although market trends are clearly positive, Tchoukavoff does not want its business to grow too fast. “Let us not grow faster than ‘safety first’ allows,” he said.

In three months, ETS’s workforce has doubled, from 40 to 80, and under current planning it should stabilize at around 100 next year. About half of that number will be instructors, evenly split between maintenance and flight.