Construction of the new FlightSafety International (FSI) Learning Center at Farnborough Airport in the UK neared completion last month. The first of up to 14 flight simulators have arrived and are due to be installed over the next few weeks, with a view toward seating students for the first training sessions in May and June.
Business aircraft are the main focus of FSI’s second European Learning Center, which will place a strong emphasis on the Cessna Citation series, with three simulators for the Bravo, CJ2 and Excel due to be installed between this month and August. The Citation units will occupy one of three simulator halls.
Also among the initial group of Farnborough simulators is a Gulfstream IV, a Beech King Air 200 and a Hawker 800XP with a Honeywell avionics suite. FSI has committed to adding another 800XP sim and a Hawker 400XP unit (both with Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics).
Rudy Toering, FSI’s managing director for Europe business development, said that the company will decide later how to fill the remaining four simulator slots in the Farnborough center. There will definitely be one helicopter simulator, but FSI has yet to determine the type. The company has previously suggested that the simulator mix at Farnborough might also include a Citation CJ1 and Ultra, as well as Bombardier Challenger and Learjet 45 simulators.
The first two simulators in the Farnborough facility will be for regional airline pilots, a Saab 340 and a Raytheon Beech 1900 (which can also be used to train King Air 300 and 350 crews). These sims will occupy the middle four-bay hall, along with the helicopter unit, which requires more space than fixed-wing units due to its large actuators and base. The other two Farnborough halls will house five sims each.
FSI’s other European Learning Center at Paris Le Bourget Airport will continue to specialize in Dassault Falcon training, as well as offer simulators for Embraer and Bombardier regional aircraft.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority is certifying the new simulators at Farnborough to European Joint Aviation Authorities STD1A standards. Toering said that the process is going well, but added that–like other training providers–FSI welcomes moves to bring the regulation of flight training under the new European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The industry expects that the EASA will have the legal authority to eliminate lingering national variations in the way training rules are applied throughout Europe.
Like the Le Bourget facility, Farnborough is attracting pilots from beyond Europe, with aircrew from Africa, the Middle East and Asia reportedly eager to find an alternative to traveling to the U.S. for training. Extremely arduous U.S. visa requirements for foreign pilots, with individuals having to wait as much as 30 days to complete the process for a single visit, continue to present a serious disincentive for crews to train in the U.S. In some cases, foreign pilots have missed long-booked training slots because of delays in the issuing of visas.
According to FSI product marketing manager Anthony van de Geest, another advantage of the European training location is that operators from outside North America have shorter journeys and less jet lag to contend with. This can significantly reduce the amount of time that an operator has to keep pilots off its crew rosters, thereby reducing the overall expense of training.
However, due to higher operating costs in Europe, FSI’s training rates for the Farnborough Learning Center are expected to be somewhat higher than those at its U.S. facilities. The pricing structure for the new facility has yet to be finalized, but Toering indicated that reduced travel and employee time costs would offset any difference.
FSI is now marketing the Farnborough Learning Center to smaller operators whose crews need only a single type rating. These pilots have tended to do their training in their own aircraft because the operators believe that it is less expensive than simulator training.
“The cost of traveling overseas for simulator training was one of the main reasons for this option seeming prohibitively expensive, but we can now offer a more cost-efficient way of meeting this requirement,” Toering told AIN. FSI is now offering single-rating crews special packages under which they will have three days of recurrent training every 12 months, followed by a subsequent session of operational proficiency training.
FSI has hired almost 40 instructors for the Farnborough center and expects to increase this to 60 or 70 by year-end. The company has drawn the academic staff from several European countries, as well as from South Africa.
In addition to the simulator halls, the Farnborough facility features 27 classrooms and 27 briefing rooms. The 92,000-sq-ft building, one of FSI’s largest learning centers, also offers several customer lounges, offices for instructors, an exercise room, computer rooms and a garden. Farnborough is located about 35 miles southwest of central London and is about a 45-minute drive from Heathrow Airport.
The Farnborough center will follow FSI’s three-tier matrix training concept. In addition to the flight simulators, the concept incorporates an interactive FlightViz debriefing system, through which pilots and their instructors can rerun and review simulator experiences and practice operational procedures on a graphical flight deck simulator, and a twin-screen desktop training system.
Hotel Planned for Farnborough Airport
A 150-room hotel could be built at Farnborough Airport, providing a welcome new accommodation option for visiting business aircraft crews. TAG Aviation, which operates Farnborough as a dedicated business aviation gateway to London and the south of England, is considering whether to build the hotel itself or seek a partnership with a major hotel group.
The company has already secured a plot of land on the east side of the airport and has received “outline” provisional planning permission to build a hotel on the site of the old Royal Air Force officers mess. FlightSafety International’s new Farnborough Learning Center is expected to have an ongoing requirement for around 50 to 60 rooms, with its training clients needing accommodation for up to three weeks at a time.
Farnborough-area hotels are widely considered to offer poor value for money, and a purpose-built hotel so close to the airport promises to be warmly received by corporate crews.
Meanwhile, TAG Aviation’s Farnborough management is actively considering how to provide more hangar space at the airport. It already has plans to build another three-bay hangar complex, mirroring the existing structure, but the company is now looking at plans to add hangar accommodation more quickly. The existing hangars are increasingly full, largely due to the growing number of aircraft based at Farnborough.