EBACE Convention News

FlightSafety ramps up UK capacity

 - November 30, 2006, 4:46 AM

With seven full-flight simulators already in place at its new Farnborough flight training center in the UK, FlightSafety International expects to have an additional four “ready for training” (RFT) units by November, with two more by next May. Late last year, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued the facility a Part 142 certificate permitting crews to complete FAA-approved training there. This allows pilots from outside the U.S. to avoid the considerable inconvenience and delays associated with post-9/11 U.S. immigration procedures.

FlightSafety Farnborough’s 92,000-sq-ft building opened last year with capacity for 15 full-flight simulators (FFSs), alongside interactive classrooms with training devices and pilot briefing rooms. The center currently offers FFSs for the Cessna Citation Bravo and CitationJet CJ2, Gulfstream IV, the Raytheon Beech King Air 200 and Beech 1900D twin turboprops, as well as the Saab 340. A simulator for the Raytheon Hawker 800, with its Honeywell cockpit, will be available late next month.

Citation Excel, Hawker 400XP and Bombardier de Havilland Dash 8-Q400 units are set to come on line by November 1. The Citation Mustang and Rockwell Collins-equipped Hawker 800XP are scheduled for RFT status in the following six months.

Rudy Toering, FSI’s managing director for European business development, conceded that training capacity at Farnborough has been established slightly more slowly than expected, mainly a reflection of FlightSafety’s internal relocation of simulators between centers in response to local requirements. With training demand and the business-aircraft population increasing in Europe, it is the right time to ramp up Farnborough’s capacity, he said, which would be “up to plan” by the end of this year.

Citation and Gulfstream pilot training was established initially because there was “the right number” of aircraft in the region, Toering said. The demand for Citation training especially has been such that FlightSafety is increasing simulator usage–a “careful balancing act” that could see units being used for as much as 5,000 hours per year. The center employs about 85 people, a number Toering expects to increase to at least 120 as more capacity is introduced.

Although turboprop markets could be hard to penetrate because so much training has generally been done on the aircraft, Toering reported “a lot of calls” from India and Pakistan in addition to demand from Europe and the Middle East. He said this was a prime reason for operators to move more training into simulators. “You can do only so much on the aircraft. Simulators provide not only a professional check, but can explore the ‘what if’ [scenarios],” Toering said. Europe, he added, particularly is operationally oriented to procedures training and “the simulator is the best place to sort that out.”

He said pilot throughput is at the appropriate level for the available units, although slow introduction of some simulators had contributed to an overall lower number of flight crew than originally expected. Toering confirmed operator perceptions that European simulator training is nominally more expensive than in the U.S., if only because the overall cost–including transatlantic travel and rest days in both directions–was not included in the equation. Compared with using U.S. capacity, operators save a minimum of three (and arguably four) days per pilot by using European training services.

Another area of concern to operators has been the issue of tax applied to training services in different European countries. Toering acknowledged that there did not appear to be a level playing field throughout the region, something partly attributable to local political philosophy.

In some states, such training could be deemed to be professional career development and be treated as education, which is exempt from tax. Toering acknowledged that FlightSafety may have lost some business at the Farnborough center because UK value-added tax is applied to its training services.

On the operational side, Toering has recently turned over some day-to-day responsibility to assistant manager Paul Hewett so he can concentrate on developing FlightSafety’s training business across the European region. Hewett has been at Farnborough since 2004, and previously was manager and chief pilot with Motorola’s European corporate flight department.