After a year best described as challenging, flight-training provider FlightSafety International has seen an uptick in business since January and is adding another training site to its worldwide network, as well as several new training platforms at some of its locations. “We are seeing a little bit of life here in the first quarter,” said Eric Hinson, the company’s executive vice president. “There’s been some resurgence in terms of overall training activity, but of course we’re very focused on what’s going on in the rest of the world.”
Like most in the business aviation industry, the company has noted the changing patterns in the business aviation industry. “As with our OEM partners, the higher growth rates right now are the other parts of the world: Asia, the Middle East and to some extent South America,” he said. “Those are the areas where even though the underlying level of activity is much smaller than it is in Europe and North America, it is growing much more rapidly.”
To meet that growth, the company said it will be expanding its Asian footprint early next year with the addition of a Gulfstream 450/550 full flight simulator–the first Gulfstream simulator in Asia–at a temporary facility in Hong Kong. “We see a growing demand for training in Asia,” noted Hinson. “It’s certainly a market that is getting to the point where it can support dedicated training in the region.” The company plans eventually to build a permanent facility that will house its regional headquarters as well as a 10-bay training center that could accommodate 3,000 trainees a year.
Another recently announced addition to FlightSafety’s Farnborough, UK facility is a Bombardier Challenger 605 level-D simulator currently being built and scheduled to be operational next year. “We’ve already got a lot of interest in terms of folks in Europe interested in training on that simulator because, currently, the only provider of training on the Challenger 605 is Bombardier,” said Hinson “Both of their simulators are located in North America, so this will be the first  simulator in the European market.”
In January, New York-based FlightSafety (Stand 1758) began training on its first FAA- and EASA-approved Falcon 7X simulator at its Dallas, Texas facility, which is proving to be a draw for international clients. “We’re finding that many customers, both new and long-time in Europe, are coming to the U.S. to train with us in Dallas,” he said. “Even though there is training available to them in Europe, they are coming over.” Hinson said he believes that, so far, European customers have made up approximately 25 percent of the company’s 7X business.
In response to sister company NetJets’ recent massive order for up to 120 long-range Bombardier Global jets, FlightSafety was named as the authorized training partner. It will be building a full-flight simulator for the Global 5000 and Global Express Vision, which will be installed at the company’s Columbus, Ohio facility. “The most important part is that we will have training available to third parties, so it’s not exclusively NetJets,” Hinson told AIN. “FlightSafety will provide training to all Global Vision customers.”
Another area that is providing excitement for the company is the agreement it signed last year with Pratt & Whitney Canada to provide engine maintenance training. The European engine maintenance facility is located at FlightSafety’s Paris Le Bourget training facility. Hinson said that, based on customer feedback, the growing partnership has been a success.
The company is also investing in its maintenance training programs to meet EASA requirements calling for specific aircraft type training for technicians, Hinson said. “As that becomes a mandatory requirement, we are receiving EASA approval for both theoretical and practical training,” said Hinson. According to the company, it has already implemented more than 100 EASA-approved engine, avionics and airframe maintenance courses for aircraft such as the Cessna CJ3 and CJ4. It also is working on programs to support maintenance training on the Gulfstream 650 and 250 ahead of their entries into service.
FlightSafety is most recognized as a corporate aviation training entity, but it also one of the world’s largest rotorcraft instruction providers. It is the authorized training provider for Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky and is currently working to improve its relationships with European helicopter OEMs such as AgustaWestland and Eurocopter. As such, the company has recently focused on this area, creating several new simulators for light helicopters such as the Bell 206 and 407 as well as the Eurocopter AS350 and EC135.
While all these devices are presently located in the U.S., the training provider expects to soon expand its presence in Europe. At its Farnborough facility, it presently has a Sikorsky S-92 simulator that generates a large amount of activity from North Sea operators. “We are exploring a number of options to better serve that market as we go forward,” said Hinson.