FlightSafety International (FSI) comes to this year’s NBAA convention highlighting a string of accomplishments, including a new partnership with Embraer, a training agreement with Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC), its expansion of helicopter training programs and news of an enhanced product that allows trainees to “fly” virtual airplane missions during classroom training.
FlightSafety’s partnership with Embraer is the result of a competition held by the OEM a year ago, according to executive vice president Eric Hinson. “They wanted to consolidate all training they were doing themselves,” he said. With the exception of the Phenom 100/300 program, which is run by CAE SimuFlite, FlightSafety will provide factory authorized training for Embraer airliners and business aircraft, including the new fly-by-wire Legacy 450 and 500 and future models. “We’re excited to be part of it,” Hinson said. As part of the contract, the organization is to build dedicated Legacy 600/650 simulators instead of adapting the ERJ 145 simulators to the training task.
P&WC used to do its engine maintenance training in-house, but now the company has signed an agreement for FSI to provide it. P&WC representatives are at the FlightSafety booths (Nos. 1227 and 1327) talking about the new agreement and telling customers about the new training opportunities. “By partnering with FlightSafety,” Hinson said, “we’re able to bring our core expertise in training together with their knowledge and understanding of their product…to provide a comprehensive and high-quality training product to P&WC customers.” The training will be provided at FlightSafety learning centers, such as those in Paris and Wichita, where the company offers maintenance training on P&WC-powered aircraft.
FlightSafety is also focusing on the myriad aircraft types it covers, which include more than 94 percent of business aircraft and helicopters. The company has trained people from 150 countries and territories and operates 40 learning centers around the world, including one in South Africa.
Its ab initio training facility in Vero Beach, Fla., remains busy as the worldwide need for pilots continues to increase. “There’s a lot of concern here and overseas,” Hinson said, about pilot availability in the future. Growing demand outside the U.S. could mean opportunities for the company to create partnerships for pilot training facilities, he said. “We see the potential.” FlightSafety also recently signed a preferred supplier partnership agreement with Boeing. “They’re very concerned [about the future] and don’t want lack of pilots to be limiting factor,” Hinson said. FlightSafety can help not only by training new pilots but also by providing simulator-based tools to give them lots of experience in the aircraft types they will fly.
On the maintenance training side, FlightSafety is seeing significant activity, according to Hinson. “Airplanes are becoming more complex, and mechanics have to be much more knowledgeable. Having an A&P [certificate] just doesn’t cut it anymore. We’re seeing more demand for advanced courses.” The U.S. differs from Europe in that European authorities generally require that mechanics obtain type-specific training on the aircraft they maintain, he said. Hinson added that he expects more mechanics worldwide will need type training. “We see it as an essential part of the future of business aviation training,” he said.
During the next few months, FlightSafety will be qualifying some new simulators, including another Gulfstream model, a King Air and a Falcon 7X. On the helicopter side, the company has developed a new visual system–the Vital X–for helicopter flight training devices and simulators. Vital X displays 10 times more polygons per channel than the previous generation Vital 9 system.
“The helicopter arena is very interested in having high-fidelity visual cueing for the close-in work it does,” said Hinson, “particularly around oil rigs and crash sites. The increased processing power [allows for] fine detail, almost photorealistic. We’re developing new visual scenes at that high level of detail–oil rigs off Angola and the Gulf, and crash scenes for the EMS market. We’re finding that the helicopter market is responding favorably to this.”
Night-vision Capable Vital X is also night-vision-goggle-compatible and allows simulation of dust storms, brownouts and adverse weather. The real beauty of the combination of simulation and modern technology is the ability to tailor scenes to the operator’s typical flights, he said. “It’s a powerful tool in that respect. Big operators do things they would never do in the actual helicopter, which is where most training has taken place.”
At FlightSafety’s Tucson learning center, a Eurocopter AS 350 level-7 flight training device is available with Vital X and motion cueing in the seat. A Bell 206 was recently installed in the Lafayette, La. learning center, and a Bell 407 is to be added by the end of the year. For the Eurocopter EC 135, FlightSafety is building a full-motion level-D simulator, which is also to be installed by the end of the year.
A new effort by FlightSafety, called the operational day flow (ODF) concept, will make training much more interesting, Hinson said. “We’re constantly reinvesting in our training to make it a more productive experience for our customers,” he explained. “When you go through a course in a typical training environment, you learn each system, then normal procedures, abnormal procedures and emergencies.”
The ODF concept uses the software that runs the simulators on classroom computers so students can fly practice scenarios without having to leave their desks. “You actually operate the airplane,” he said, “and through that you’re learning the system.”
ODF, for example, allows students to experience engine starts in extremely cold environments or practice a flight scenario while learning about systems without taking up valuable simulator time. “It’s one thing to talk about it,” he said, “but different if you experience it. I think it has powerful implications for learning.”
FlightSafety is in the process of deploying ODF at its learning centers, and the first classrooms are for Cessna platforms in Wichita. “The intent is to use this as the basis for the future of our flight instruction,” Hinson explained. “It is an ingenious way to breathe some life into training. This is the way we should have been learning years ago.”