Last month FlightSafety International and Gulfstream Aerospace opened a new learning center in Hong Kong to serve Asian operators of the G450 and G550 jets. Equipped with a G550 level-D-qualified full-flight simulator that is convertible to a G450, the new facility expects to provide 250 “training events” this year, according to David Davenport, manager of FlightSafety’s Savannah learning center, a key player in defining the Hong Kong facility and its responsible manager now that it is up and running.
The new G450/G550 simulator is equipped with FlightSafety’s Vital X visual system and electric motion and control loading technology.
Until now, pilots and mechanics of Asia-based Gulfstream aircraft have had to make the journey to FlightSafety’s learning centers in Long Beach, California, and Savannah (where Gulfstream is based) for initial and recurrent training, and with the facility in Hong Kong they will have easier access to factory-approved instruction.
The new facility is physically located within Cathay City, embedded in Cathay Pacific Airways’ training facilities. “When you walk up to the door it doesn’t say FlightSafetyInternational on it,” noted Davenport, “but once you get to our area–with simulator bays, classrooms, briefing rooms, instructor/administrative area–it looks and feels as if you’re in aFlightSafety learning center. This is our first venture with Cathay, and I’m pleased to report it has been good for both sides. The support they have given us in getting set up has been a great help.”
Based on aircraft on order for and being delivered to operators in the Asia Pacific region, Davenport expects the G650 and G280 will be the next aircraft to be represented at the facility, rather than legacy models such as the GV, GIV and G200.
For students whose native tongue is not English, the biggest challenge in training is the language barrier, and Davenport says this is the primary reason FlightSafety chose to put its first training venture in the region in Hong Kong. “The facility is dedicated to supporting the Asian market, and specifically the Chinese market. Until now they have been coming to Long Beach and Savannah for training. One, it’s an incredibly long trip. Two, for many of them it’s their first time to the U.S., and there is quite a culture adjustment. That creates challenges for the training environment. We’ve always felt that if we had a dedicated facility in Hong Kong with interpreters available and a time difference of only three hours it would provide a much more conducive training environment,” Davenport told AIN. FlightSafety (Booth H521) currently has no plans to break ground for a facility in mainland China.
On opening day, the Hong Kong facility was offering only pilot training, but in May it will begin to provide training for G450 and G550 maintenance technicians as well. Davenport predicts the Hong Kong facility’s customer base will be about an even split between Asian nationals and expats based in the region. So far, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department have approved the simulator, training programs and facilities. In mid-March the Civil Aviation Administration of China was scheduled to visit the facility and certify the simulator, and by the end of March another inspection is expected to put the CAAC seal of approval on the facility.
The typical expat flying Asia-based business jets has come up through the ranks of the Western general aviation’s industry, according to Davenport, but Chinese business jet pilots tend to come from the airlines. “We’re working with Beijing-based DeerJet (owned by Hainan Airlines) for transitioning some ab initio pilots to learn to become SICs [second-in-commands] in Gulfstreams.” All the instructors at the FSI Gulfstream facility are FSI employees on a two-year assignment from the U.S., and Davenport emphasized, “We didn’t hire them off the street and send them over. They have all been instructing at FSI for a number of years.”
“We’re pleased to partner with FlightSafety to offer this training opportunity for current and future operators,” said Gulfstream president Larry Flynn. “This is the first simulator dedicated solely for business-jet operators in Asia.” Approximately 80 Gulfstreams are located in Hong Kong and mainland China, with a total of 175 in the Asia Pacific region–a fleet that prompts Gulfstream to proclaim itself the market-share leader in the region, with 48 percent of large-cabin business jets.
Gulfstream further points out that the number of FlightSafety training events provided to the region’s Gulfstream operators has increased by 230 percent in the past five years. FSI delivered more than 4,000 courses to airlines and business aircraft operators based in the region last year, including more than 700 for pilots, maintenance technicians and other aviation professionals who operate and support Gulfstreams. Some 27 percent of Gulfstream’s $17.9 billion order backlog is from the Asia Pacific region.
“We are proud to have served as Gulfstream’s factory-authorized training provider for more than 40 years,” commented FlightSafety president and CEO Bruce Whitman. “Our close working relationship ensures that we provide the highest-quality training using simulators and advanced training devices that reflect the exact flying and operating characteristics of the aircraft.”