EBACE Convention News

CAE plans major global expansion

 - May 15, 2011, 12:38 AM

Flight training provider CAE is preparing to double its global network of business aviation training centers over the next two years. In a major vote of confidence in a business aviation recovery, the U.S.-based group recently added a new facility in Amsterdam. Next year, it plans to open centers in both Mexico and Brazil and by 2013 it will add another at a soon-to-be determined location in Asia.

The Mexican center, to be established in Toluca near Mexico City, will initially include Learjet 45 and Bell 412 simulators, while the site in São Paulo will begin operations with a convertible Embraer Phenom100/300 unit. The eventual location of the Asia facility has been narrowed down to three potential choices, according to Jeff Roberts, president of CAE’s civil simulation products, training and services group, who added that training for large-cabin such as Gulfstreams, Bombardier Globals and long-range Dassault Falcons would likely be among the programs offered there.

CAE began this year with four business aviation facilities, including its flagship 36-simulator center in Dallas, Texas, along with Morristown, New Jersey; Burgess Hill, UK; and Dubai. During the first quarter of the year, the Amsterdam training center, which has been open for some time serving the commercial aircraft market, saw the addition of a pair of level-D simulators for the Bombardier Challenger 604 and Challenger 300.

“We’ve worked very closely with Bombardier to bring the program up to speed very quickly with very high quality instruction,” Roberts, CAE’s group president, civil simulation products, training and services. “The curriculum we are offering is very specific. It’s not one that we’ve taken and reconfigured from the FAA; it’s an EASA/JAA-based program.”

Based on current industry trends, the company has decided to expand its international footprint with the addition of three new training centers, according to Roberts. “I think everybody has seen the increasing levels of interest and activities in what I would call the emerging or developing markets for business aviation,” he told AIN. “Now there’s even more activity in Central and South America, more activity in Asia, and more activity in the Commonwealth of Independent States.”

The new Mexican center, to be established in Toluca, will initially include Learjet 45 and Bell 412 simulators, while the site in São Paulo will begin operations with a convertible Embraer Phenom 100/300 unit. As is the case in the company’s recent additions to its training center network, plans call for each of the new facilities to include four to six bays with eventual expansion being dictated by demand. “It’s all about trying to be customer centric and listening to the market,” said Roberts. “I wish it was more sophisticated, but we’ve just got to listen to our customers.”

In addition to the expansion plans, over the past year, among its existing centers, CAE (Stand 1051) increased its fleet of full-flight simulators by approximately 20 percent, adding a Cessna Citation II and Learjet 40/40XR/45/45XR at Burgess Hill; a Dassault Falcon 50EX and Embraer Phenom 100/300 in Dallas; a Cessna Sovereign in Morristown; and a Falcon 900EX EASy/2000EX EASy and Falcon 7X in Dubai. Overall, the company now provides training on more than 80 different models of business aircraft. 

Given the recent economic downturn, Roberts believes that level of growth well demonstrates his company’s long-term commitment to the industry. “In the face of this challenge, I think a lot of companies pulled back on investment. We kept investing in R&D, so we are very proud of that.”

In terms of market conditions over the past year, CAE saw a continued decrease in training for smaller aircraft, while the global appetite for instruction on larger, longer-legged airplanes remained fairly firm, leading Roberts to note that the industry still remains highly stratified.

“It’s a bit different market than it was prior to the global economic crisis; it’s operating a bit differently. If you look at the metrics just around the big airplanes–the number of airplanes for sale, the utilization of those airplanes and the number of orders for those airplanes–it’s very robust,” he said. “Price points on those used airplanes maintain themselves, so that certainly is the best of the best and then as you work your way down, it gets a little bit more difficult.”

Roberts said the company has seen some recent improvements in interest among midsized aircraft training but he added that the demand for smaller airplanes remains challenging.