Special Report: Flight crew training

 - May 21, 2008, 5:58 AM

“Aircraft insurance is a fairly pragmatic business,” stressed Jim Harris, executive vice president of AIG Aviation, Atlanta. “We put very high liability limits on our clients–$100 to $300 million and even higher on some Fortune 500 companies. Considering we’re insuring $20 million aircraft flying near the speed of sound with millionaire executives on board, training is paramount in our book.”

AIG Aviation is a member of the American International Group, a major international and financial services organization and underwriter of commercial and industrial insurance. According to Harris, AIG requires a formal pilot-training program that includes time in a full-motion simulator. “We don’t recommend a specific provider but we do require initial and at least annual recurrent training of that type,” he said. “We also take a hard look at the customer’s established in-house safety program. As you go down the aircraft ‘food chain’ with less expensive aircraft types, simpler operations and passengers who aren’t key executives of giant corporations, you’ll find lower liability limits and more flexibility with the training program.”

“It’s difficult to overvalue the benefits of being associated with a company such as FlightSafety International,” Bill Wagner, chief pilot of Townsend Engineering Co., Des Moines, Iowa, told AIN. “We’ve called FSI on the telephone while in-flight when problems have occurred. I’m aware of one pilot who called when his gear wouldn’t extend and FSI personnel helped him work through the problem. It’s not only a good source for recurrent training but a good resource in between schooling for both pilots and mechanics.”

Wagner explained that training providers such as FSI could actually be a better resource for in-flight operational problems than the OEM. “In many cases the trainers have more experience in the operational aspect of the aircraft than the OEM simply because they’ve talked to so many crews,” he said.

While all aviation underwriters feel strongly about training, the requirements vary. Bill Welbourn, executive vice president of United States Aviation Underwriters, said his company’s preferred method is for crews to attend OEM-approved simulator training programs, for three primary reasons:

First, many emergency maneuvers can be done only in a simulator and they’re usually the ones that present the greatest danger in real life. Second, the major providers include aeronautical decision-making training in their programs, which has proven to have a direct effect on operational safety. Finally, that type of program provides the crew with an unbiased third set of eyes to evaluate their crew resource management techniques.  

The Exceptions

However, despite preferring sim training, it is not always possible. “Some of our customers operate aircraft for which there is no simulator training,” Welbourn said. “We work with them so they can develop an appropriate training program.” He said in cases where existing simulators are not state-of-the-art or are non-motion, sometimes alternative training methods are used, such as contract aircraft instructors. “In those instances we may suggest the customer rotate between in-aircraft training and simulator training in alternate years,” he added.

John Lowery, a Folsom, Calif.-based training specialist and aviation safety writer, was a USAF F-86 combat pilot during the Korean War and subsequently flew the F-105D in Vietnam for a combined military and civilian flying career of 37 years. Looking back on his 24 years as a contract flight-crew training instructor specializing in Sabreliners, he stressed, “I’m a conscientious individual, and to be perfectly frank, the absolute best training is with a provider that uses simulation. However, that’s not always an option for everyone. For an initial training program, I recommend that after sim training they fly with a contract instructor for 25 to 50 hours. I think it’s irrational to have a guy with 4,000 hours total time type-rated solely in the simulator then let him fly his first trip alone. I know someone who did that from Fresno, California, to Basel, Switzerland, in a Sabre 65. Does that make sense?”

But Lowery was also quick to point out that not all aircraft lend themselves to this type of training. “You have to limit contract flight training to the less sophisticated airplanes such as the Sabreliner series,” he emphasized. “When you get into more sophisticated aircraft with fan engines, EFIS and so on, you have to have mockups and sims. The risk for damaging systems in the actual aircraft is simply too great. Unfortunately, the day of the independent contractor may be coming to an end because a lot of charlatans pop up in this business and there’s no quality control.”

Lowery brought up as an example a contract trainer who offered Sabreliner type ratings in three days for $3,000. “I could not compete with that, nor would I want to,” he said. “It takes five days just to go through the aircraft flight manual, and I wouldn’t consider an initial program of less than seven days of ground school and flight. Many will require eight to 10 days to successfully complete it.”

He suggested aircraft that were candidates for contract training include the Learjet 23/24, but cautioned that the instructor must really understand high Mach flight. He also suggested the Sabreliner 40/60/80 series, but excluded the Sabre 65 as being too sophisticated. “The 65 is probably best left to the sim training centers,” he said.

The emphasis put on a structured simulator training program is well founded. According to Robert Breiling, president of Boca Raton, Fla.-based aviation safety consulting firm Robert E. Breiling Associates, since the first corporate jet flew in 1964 there have been 836 accidents and/or incidents, of which 73 occurred during in-aircraft training (8.7 percent). Of the total 836 accidents, 143 were fatal (17.1 percent), but 27 of the 73 training accidents were fatal (37 percent). Clearly a disproportionately high percentage of training accidents are fatal.

Breiling pointed out that since 1984, by which time simulators had sufficiently evolved to allow all training and check rides to be done in the simulator, in-aircraft training accidents have decreased considerably. In 1999 there were two and last year only one. And as one insurance executive quipped, “We’ve yet to lose anyone in the simulator.”

As both a chief pilot operating Citation Xs and Cheyennes, Townsend’s Wagner has given a lot of thought to corporate flight-crew training. “Providers such as FlightSafety and SimuFlite offer a formal training setting with professional instructors teaching a curriculum that has been scrutinized by the FAA,” he said. “The equipment is, in most cases, high-level simulators, but even the older ones must be kept up to FAA standards. It’s impossible to beat that kind of training.”

Enrichment Courses

FlightSafety International, SimuFlite and Pan Am International Flight Academy’s
SimCom of Orlando, Fla., offer enrichment courses as an important part of formal training. According to Wagner, “Enrichment courses are more important than ever before. Some, such as RVSM, are necessary because the FAA requires training, but even courses on TCAS and TAWS are important,” he said. “It is also vital that training facilities have a working relationship with the avionics manufacturers, such as Honeywell and Universal. Can you imagine trying to learn how to use something like the Honeywell Primus 2000 by reading a book?” Fortunately, a wide array of training courses are available.

Jeff Roberts, president of GE-owned SimuFlite, said his company offers type-specific training programs for more than 40 business aircraft in 20 level-C and -D simulators. FAA full-motion simulator fidelity requirements range from level A on the low end to level D at the highest fidelity. The company also offers business jet maintenance training at either SimuFlite’s training center in Dallas or on-site at the client’s location. In addition to aircraft specific courses, SimuFlite also offers approximately a dozen enrichment courses for pilots and some 30 technical training programs for maintenance personnel.

Founded in 1981, SimuFlite operates the Hercules Flight Training Center in Marietta, Ga., featuring the world’s only FAA-approved Lockheed L-100/C-130 Hercules flight simulator. It also supports the Bombardier Aerospace Training Center in St. Laurent, Quebec, the first non-U.S. training center to be granted FAA Part 142 approval, as well as the Bombardier Aerospace DFW Customer Training Center in Dallas/Fort Worth. Additionally, the company operates its QuickTurn program in Grapevine, Texas, where it offers initial and recurrent training on the Cessna 400 series, Cheyenne, Citation I/II, King Air C90/100 and Turbo Commander 690 in advanced flight simulators and trainers.

FlightSafety International has more than 35 centers worldwide offering type-specific training for some 40 aircraft. It also offers in excess of 50 enrichment courses, an extensive list of maintenance-training programs and it has an ab initio flight-training program in Vero Beach, Fla.

Scenario-based Training

Robert Stephenson, director of standards for FlightSafety International, said, “We can do things in our centers that simply can’t be done in an aircraft. But beyond that, what we’re doing differently today is we’re using scenarios.” He explained that, traditionally, type-specific training was a review of instrument and emergency procedures.

While both are still important parts of training, the emphasis now is on each flight being a specific scenario with a crew resource management training objective. “We’ll use scenarios that stress workload management or decision-making skills,” he said. “The idea is to design scenarios that challenge the crew’s ability to work as a team rather than as individuals.

“Crew resource management and human-factors training are being integrated into all facets of training more and more. Rarely are accidents the result of a lack of knowledge,” Stephenson explained. “Far more often they are the result of either a breakdown in communication, the crew’s management process or both. You can never stop doing the technical training, of course, but we now recognize the importance of using specific scenarios to foster better management.” Scenario-based instruction also carries over into ground school.

“Since the beginning of type-specific aircraft training, emphasis has been put on learning about nuts-and-bolts issues,” Stephenson said. “But is in-depth mechanical knowledge really necessary if the crew has no access to the mechanics of a system? Today we’re far more interested in operator training. How to operate a system, not how to build or repair it.” Another shift in training methodology relates to the manner of instruction.

Traditionally, instruction has been didactic–the instructor lectured and fielded questions from students, but research has long shown the best form of learning is self-discovery. Today, SimuFlite requires every instructor to be facilitation-led rather than lecture based. It is a kinder, gentler version of the Socratic method of instruction long used in law schools to get students to think and discover for themselves. It is a principle of learning in which the student is actively involved in the process rather than being passive. “For example, the instructor might ask students to think like an engineer and list what they would include on an essential bus before looking at the actual schematic,” Stephenson said. “We’ve found that to be a more effective method for our students.”

SimCom Creates Niche

Another FAR Part 142-approved major provider of flight-crew training is SimCom. According to Tracy Brannon, vice president and managing director of SimCom’s parent, Pan Am International Flight Academy, his company trains pilots, flight engineers, air traffic controllers, flight attendants and maintenance personnel. The academy is partitioned into three divisions. The commercial division is responsible for regional and air carrier training with facilities in eight U.S. locations. The career pilot division offers ab initio pilot training schools in Phoenix and Fort Pierce, Fla. SimCom is the business and general aviation division with centers in Vero Beach and Orlando, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz.

SimCom started operations in 1989 with a Cessna 421 FAA-approved flight training device (FTD). The company has since earned a reputation for providing cabin-class piston and turboprop training in non-motion, visual FTDs. More recently, it added level-C motion-based flight simulators with the advent of its Citation and Learjet type-rating programs. When Pan Am acquired SimCom, the parent company brought a complimentary track record in airline simulator training.

Piston and turboprop training is done in the highly realistic level-5 FTDs. The devices are built from actual cockpits and original aircraft components. They feature computer-generated visuals that span nearly 180 deg across the field of view, emulating both with day and night.

Coupled with electronic control force loading and digitally sampled audio, students quickly become immersed in the flight and generally don’t notice the lack of motion. While there is no yaw associated with engine failure, the upside is that this forces the student to have a quicker, sharper instrument scan. Training is delivered by the same instructor in both the classroom and simulator, with no more than two pilots per instructor.

SimCom classrooms are equipped with multimedia projection systems supplemented by cockpit procedure trainers and procedures training mockups. The academy is equipped to provide initial, transition, recurrent, requalification and upgrade training that is tailored to specific aircraft or customers needs. Pan Am operates a total of 13 training centers covering aircraft from the Beech Duke to the Boeing 747-400, but SimCom is best known for its niche market. SimCom centers offer training in such types as the Aerostar 600 series; Beech Barons, Dukes and King Airs; the Cessna 300 and 400 series; and the Piper Cheyenne and Malibu series.

SimCom also offers enrichment courses, such as its upset recovery course designed to maximize understanding of hazardous flight conditions and situational awareness. The course provides simulator training in primary and advanced techniques followed by flight time in a Bellanca Decathlon. The two-day course includes an accident review, discussion of flight hazards such as wake turbulence, clear air turbulence, thunderstorm activity and microbursts and actual flight training in the recovery from spins, roll and upset.

According to Brannon, “Our niche is providing a choice in sim-based training that we feel has not really been fully recognized until our entry into the marketplace. Our goal was to bring to the marketplace an advanced training system based on PC technology so we could offer more cost-effective training to Cessna 400 series and King Air operators who couldn’t afford the cost of FlightSafety and SimuFlite. We pioneered the use of visual-motion cueing with a powerful wraparound visual system that gives all the necessary cues and took away the expensive hydraulic platform.”

Brannon went on to say that the company suffers somewhat from a lack of name recognition. “Our name is not out there with FSI and SimuFlite yet. Pan Am purchased SimCom about two years ago so our name is fairly new in the market, but more importantly we’re competing with brand-name recognition much the same as Coke or Xerox. When someone says they need training, they say they’re going to FlightSafety, in a generic sense. It’s hard to spread the message and develop brand identity, but we’re an emerging force in the corporate aviation training industry.”

It may well be that SimCom has been the lesser recognized of the industry’s training providers for no other reason than it serves a narrower portion of the industry primarily with non-motion flight-training devices. According to Welbourn, that’s not a problem from the insurer’s perspective. “Simulation of motion with an enhanced visual system such as SimCom uses is also perfectly acceptable,” he said. “Our primary issue is that our customers get quality recurrent training, and SimCom certainly meets that requirement.”

But SimCom may be a victim of the long-time cliché, “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck then it must be a duck” as it relates to motion simulation.

Sim Controversy

If there’s one undeniable fact about simulator motion, it’s controversy. One side of the controversy over simulator motion effectiveness believes, at best (six axes of motion), it yields marginal benefit, and at worst (limited motion cues), it fosters negative transfer of training.

Research tends to support the latter perspective. On the other end of the argument are the “duck” believers, including the FAA’s national simulator program. It is a controversy that is not likely to be resolved in the near future, but is nonetheless important because many believe the cost of motion makes training prohibitive for the majority of aircraft operators.

One chief pilot of a small flight department put it succinctly: “FlightSafety is always talking about how many Fortune 500 companies train with them,” he said. “That pretty much sums up the problem. They’re the only ones that can afford it.”

FlightSafety’s Stephenson added some insight: “The simple fact is that most pilots believe, correctly or not, that motion is important. I’ve been in the training business a lot of years and despite what most pilots will tell you, I can run a sim with the motion off and nobody even notices. Despite that, I do think there are distinct training advantages to a good motion system, and it’s required by the FAA for certain types of training.”

From Breiling’s perspective, he’s never seen anything that would indicate motion has had any effect on accident statistics. “My personal opinion is that simulator motion doesn’t really make a difference.” SimCom’s Brannon agrees.

“The industry was built on poor information regarding motion,” Brannon said. “Its training value is simply not justified by its operational cost. Not a day goes by without our asking how do we provide our customers with better training value? Don’t misunderstand me, there’s a place in the market for FSI–it is the Cadillac of providers–but only a small percentage of the marketplace can afford a Cadillac. The majority of the people buy Chevrolets. We’re trying to make it accessible to those who probably need it the most and can afford it the least. Pricewise, we are typically about 15 percent below our competitor in the same model of aircraft.”

But SimuFlite’s vice president of training services, Bill Wilhelmi, while realistic about the subject, isn’t convinced that motion is a major cost driver of training. “Is motion perfect?” he asked. “No, but I think it does a pretty good job of replicating what you would feel in the airplane in certain situations; for instance, an engine failure. Without motion you don’t get the feel of the yaw. Non-motion can be misleading in that type of emergency. Motion provides a higher level of confidence to the client in training.”

Roberts echoed that sentiment: “I think the notion that the maintenance cost of simulation is primarily motion-base related just isn’t true. Modern flight simulator systems and visual fidelity are expensive to maintain, especially with advanced aircraft. We’re dealing with fully integrated FMS systems, HUDs and so on. Keeping those systems operational at the highest level of sophistication is expensive. Motion is just one of many cost drivers and I don’t believe it’s the major one.

“You have to ask yourself where is the value-added aspect of motion,” he added. “It’s in the maneuvers and procedures where interactivity of the motion system contributes to the exercise, such as a V1 cut. The value of motion systems comes from the recreation, to the best of your ability, of the real flight environment. The more you remove yourself from that environment the more you jeopardize the value of the training. Of course you don’t need motion to learn the FMS system, but to learn to operate the FMS in a real-world environment is a different issue.”

Pilot Perceptions

Whether motion is a significant cost driver or not, it is clear that professional simulator training isn’t cheap, no matter where one goes.

“You bet it’s expensive and the price keeps going up every year,” Wagner said. “We go every six months on the Citation X in addition to once a year for the Cheyenne.” He shared the sentiment of some pilots who say simulators tend to be more sensitive on the controls than in the real airplane. “I think the sims are a bit lighter to the touch but once you spool up your instrument scan to deal with that it makes flying the airplane back home a piece of cake. We spend close to $30,000 per pilot for training per year. My boss knows we come down to FlightSafety, he knows the tab and he’s never questioned it. The fact is he takes great comfort knowing we do this training. Why would he want to put his company at risk? It would be a mistake to equate expensive with not being cost effective. I don’t know how you could get more value out of training, certainly not by using the real aircraft.”

Franklin Davis, director of corporate aviation at American International Group, Teterboro, N.J., agreed with Wagner, saying his department budgets about $65,000 for initial pilot training with its dual-rated captains. The department operates a Bombardier Global Express, Falcon 900A/EX and Agusta 109E Power. Its annual recurrent training cost per pilot averages $40,000. “We fly in the New York area. It would be suicidal to train here in the real airplane,” he emphasized. “You can’t place a value on the safety aspect of simulator training.”

Several flight department managers said training accounts for about one-fourth of the cost of having a pilot on staff. The average pilot spends about three weeks per year in training when specialized aspects such as courses offered by MedAire–the in-flight emergency medical service provider– survival training, radar school and a host of other programs are added. “One of the things people forget is that training costs more than the simple price of the course,” one flight department manager lamented. “You also have salary, benefits, travel expenses and sometimes the replacement cost to cover the pilot while he’s gone.”

If the cost of training sounds prohibitive to all but a select few, the availability of training slots doesn’t indicate a lack of demand.

Jim Ladd, chief pilot for Union Pacific, Omaha, Neb., highlighted what he feels is a training-capacity crunch in the industry. Last March he hired a pilot to act as captain on a Hawker 800 but was unable to find space in a type-rating course. Eventually the pilot was able to get a slot in a copilot class and will have to wait a year to upgrade to captain.

“I’m going to a Continental type-rating course in September next year,” Ladd said, “but I booked it a year ago when the company decided to buy two Continentals. Bombardier didn’t even have the simulator operational at that time; it just started booking based on the anticipated date the sim would go into service. It seems fairly apparent that the OEMs are outpacing the ability of training providers to train pilots. I suspect part of the reason is the explosive growth of fractional providers, as well as continued corporate aviation growth.”

Scheduling Woes

Wagner sympathized with the issues of scheduling problems: “Scheduling is horrendous. We are scheduled two years ahead. If we had to hire an additional captain on the Citation, I don’t think we could get him into training for the next six months. The problem is even worse for some of the newer aircraft on the market. At least if you purchase a new aircraft in production most OEMs have some slots set up in advance because they look ahead for several years based on their production schedule. You can typically get initial training as part of the purchase, otherwise getting on a training schedule somewhere can be a challenge.”

Davis agreed, “Getting a decent slot is tough. I don’t like having my pilots train later than about 4 p.m. because they’re tired and won’t get the maximum benefit. Even when we get an ideal slot there’s always the problem that a trip will come up and we’ll have to reschedule. When you do that you’re never going to get a decent time slot,” he said. “But, is there a scheduling problem? There is definitely more demand than capacity when it comes to simulator training, and it’s gotten worse in the last decade.”

Steve McNeill, aviation manager at Bloomberg Services, Morristown, N.J., said his department has seven pilots and operates a Falcon 50 and 900 and an Agusta helicopter. “We face training slot shortages all the time,” he told AIN. “We’re 22 miles from Teterboro’s FlightSafety Falcon 50 and 900 center. We tried to get one of our people slotted there and were told it would be a year before he can get a captain slot. They have only one Falcon 900 and one Falcon 50 sim. What could we do? We were forced to train him in-house and we’re just waiting until we can get him a slot at FlightSafety. It might be possible to send him to the center in Houston but like most departments we’re trying to keep a tight control on costs. If we can get him in at Teterboro where he can stay at home it will represent a significant saving for us.”

Stephenson agreed that on some aircraft demand exceeds supply, but he stopped short of calling it a serious problem. “The real problem is that people can’t always call and get the date, location and especially the times they prefer. Generally there’s a two- to three-month wait for first-timers, though some aircraft may be backlogged longer, but I’ve not heard of a year wait.”

SimuFlite’s Roberts agreed, saying there is more demand today than there has been in the past but not necessarily more demand than supply. “The industry continues to put new simulators in service so I believe the supply side is constantly increasing. There may still be a bit more demand than supply, but I don’t see it as a major issue,” he said.

“The market is evolving and transforming itself at a rapid rate. Business aviation used to be pretty much exclusively executive transport, but today you have a much wider audience for the corporate aircraft–it’s viewed as a money-making tool.” Roberts also stressed that fractionals have increased the demand for training. “But do we tell people it’s going to be a year before they can get a class? When a customer needs training we’d never say you couldn’t come for a year. We will work it out somehow. It may not be the best hours but we’ll get people in within a two- to three-week window. I would consider it a complete and total failure on our part otherwise,” he said. “Our strategy, because of who we are and our position in the marketplace with one location and 30 simulators, is that we’re smaller and as a result we’re more flexible and adaptable. If I can’t do that I lose my advantage.”

Jay Evans, senior manager of airmen and commercial services at the National Business Aviation Association, said, “I think there’s no denying that there’s an increased demand for training. We’re trying to spread the word to our members that they should be looking at their training needs beyond the typical one- to two-year period. The forecast for general aviation aircraft entering the marketplace compared to the limited number of personnel to fill flight deck seats means operators must be strategically thinking how to meet their requirements three to four years down the road.”

Solutions

One way to increase capacity and decrease cost could be increased creative use of flight-training devices (FTD) and partial-task trainers.

Faros Wicat systems division, a part of Faros S.A. based in Lannion, France, is a technology-based company that primarily sells products and services to the aviation-training market. Wicat uses PC-based simulation and offers training ranging from computer-based training (CBT) to FMS simulations to level-4 and -5 FTDs. It is also developing Web-based instruction.

Wicat’s goal is to move as much training as possible from the costly flight simulators to lower-cost platforms. Looking to move into corporate aviation, the company currently offers aircraft-specific CBT for large and regional aircraft. It also offers courses covering FAA, JAA and CAA regulations and such programs as aviation security, crew resource management, dangerous-goods handling, RVSM training and low-visibility operations training.

According to Fred Agnew, president of Faros Wicat systems division, Lindon, Utah, “We’re seeing a shift in the marketplace because of JAA regulations. Previously, the European market was not interested in lower-end training devices such as FTDs, but now there’s a shift from the exclusive use of flight simulators to include partial- task trainers and FTDs. With the power of the PC it’s possible to run highly accurate simulations in those lower-level devices.” Another area being explored by Wicat and others is distance learning.

“You’re going to see a lot more development in the areas of virtual training and distance learning,” Agnew said. “I’ve yet to see a solid business model that shows me how I can make money in a sustainable fashion in those areas, though. The technology still has throughput and speed issues as it’s still a bit slow. Another major question is whether or not someone will be willing to give credit for time spent on a distance-learning program when they can’t verify if that pilot actually did the work.”

Agnew explained that it isn’t as simple as moving the company’s 1,100 hr of courseware onto the Internet. “It takes millions of dollars to put something like that online properly, but what’s the payoff if you’re charging $50 per hour? We would spend $3- to $5 million in one year to develop such a program, but it would take at least five years to recoup the initial investment. That doesn’t make business sense,” he said.

“We’d be interested in finding a risk-sharing partner or partners. Someone who’d be interested in sharing the economic risks and profits as opposed to doing it all ourselves. Having said that, the technology is emerging and I believe those and other problems will be overcome. Distance learning would be perfect for safety and emergency- procedure training, a dangerous-goods handling course, winter-operations review and so on.”

With increased operational complexity and the growth of the industry, distance-based learning may be the hope of the future. Certainly putting an increasingly diverse subject matter burden on such operations as FlightSafety will only increase the capacity problem. Some customers are already noticing problems.

The director of operations of a major flight department operating Gulfstreams and Falcons told AIN, “One of the things happening is that more and more subjects have to be covered. We’ve added RVSM and international recurrent training for example. There are just too many blocks you have to get checked. The whole time you’re training it’s scripted, you don’t have the time to practice things you think are important. Forget learning to fly the airplane; pilots need to learn to fly it before they go for training.”

Wagner echoed the sentiment and suggested that sim training may in fact not be for everyone. “Let’s face it,” he said, “formal training can be intimidating. It used to be simulator training was ‘soft training’ in that they didn’t fail anyone. That’s not the case now, so it may not be for everyone. Some pilots can’t handle the stress of simulator check rides, classrooms with written tests and so on. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not competent pilots. For some operators a contract instructor might be a better fit.” AIG’s Harris said some insurers still allow private contract training but they typically won’t write a policy for more than $10- to $20 million liability limits, and even then it will be with higher premium and deductibles. But sim-training centers offer more than just simulator training.

European Regulations

Stephenson said at FSI they’ve developed courseware to satisfy both FAA and JAA (Joint Aviation Authorities) requirements. “They’re not all that different but there definitely are differences, so our customers must choose in advance which type of training they want,” he said. “There are three avenues: straight Part 91 under our Part 142 certificate; Part 135 or 121, where we maintain copies of the operator’s training manuals and instructors familiar with them; or JAA.”

FSI also offers the multi-crew cooperation (MCC) program required by JAA for pilots who don’t have multi-crew experience and are going for their first multi-crew aircraft type rating. “It’s four days of ground school and 20 hours of simulator time. It’s sort of like a CRM course on steroids,” he said.

SimuFlite’s Bill Campbell, director of regulatory compliance, pointed out that U.S. pilots flying U.S.-registered aircraft in Europe don’t need to comply with JAA certification requirements. SimuFlite, as well as other training providers, offers a JAA option to its customers.

New Technology

Generally speaking, technology continues to evolve and improve. No giant breakthroughs are anticipated by training providers or simulator manufacturers. Robert Peck, director of corporate communications at simulator maker CAE, Toronto, Canada, said it is developing Sim 21, a lighter-design simulator that relies less on hydraulics and will have lower operating costs than its previous offerings. Initial acquisition costs will remain about the same but the operating cost will be significantly lower.

“The user won’t see a difference but the design and construction will be a significant departure from previous simulators,” he said. “In addition, there are continuing refinements in visual technology that will enhance it. The net effect will be to reduce the building time of a simulator and its operating cost.”

Last year CAE built 35 flight simulators and is projecting approximately the same number this year. While it is better known for its military and air carrier simulators, CAE has developed significant experience in the business jet aircraft market. It has designed and manufactured more than 15 corporate aircraft level-D flight simulators in the last five years including those for the Bombardier Global Express, Challenger 604 and Learjet, Gulfstream IV and V, Cessna Citation Excel and Ultra/Bravo and Raytheon Hawker 800. CAE anticipates Sim 21 will enter the market next year.

And while training providers are always open to new ideas they are also cautious. SimuFlite’s Roberts said his company takes a long, hard look at process “improvements” before making changes. “SimuFlite has learned that the hard way,” he noted. “In the 1980s we developed the Fas Trak program in which ground schools were primarily centered on computer-based training rather than instructor-delivered training. It was the wave of the future but someone forgot to tell the students. They hated it and even though we’ve long since reverted to instructor-led classrooms it’s been a tough image for us to shed.”

Wagner agreed Fas Trak was a disaster. “One of the biggest reasons we go to a formal setting like FSI or SimuFlite is the interaction with other crews. We pray for a large class of eight or 10 students in ground school,” he said while being interviewed during a break in training at FlightSafety. “We have a test pilot from Cessna going through his six-month recurrent training in class with us today. We also have two students from Prague, Czech Republic, who fly a Citation X. The class topic was international flying and those two knew the system better than anyone else. These are great resources in any given class and isn’t that the name of the game when it comes to training?”