Urbana, Illinois-based Frasca International has expanded its market share in China with contracts totaling eight flight simulators this year and has also developed its first level-D full-motion simulator.
Binzhou Flight Academy has taken delivery of a Frasca Cessna 172 CAAC level-5 flight-training device (FTD). Hubei Sky Blue International Aviation Academy has taken delivery of a Frasca Piper Seminole level-5 FTD and Nanshan Flight Academy has ordered six level-5 FTDs consisting of four Cessna 172 and two Piper Seminole FTDs. One of the FTDs has been installed, the remaining devices are in the process of being shipped and installed.
Frasca has been active in the Chinese aviation market for more than 15 years, serving government, universities, airline training centers and privately owned aviation academies and schools. The company also has a factory-trained support center located in Beijing to handle sales, CAAC certification/recertification, product support, as well as maintenance and training. It also has a presence in Shenzhen.
“Our primary strategy is diversification,” John Frasca, president and CEO of Frasca International, told AIN. Since Rudy Frasca, the patriarch of the family-owned business, began making training devices in his garage in 1958, the company has delivered more than 2,500 units in more than 70 countries. According to Frasca, the company has seen significant growth in the military sector, including with simulation-based training programs for the U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We support a lot of prime contractors with U.S. military programs by supplying parts and components for flight training devices and simulators built by other manufacturers, such as L-3 and CAE. For instance, we’ve worked on projects for AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter,” he said. “We’ve experienced steady growth in our business, and part of the reason is because we’ve diversified; if one sector slows down we have other industry sectors we serve as well. We’ve moved beyond primarily serving colleges and small flight schools, though that is still a regular part of our business.”
In September, Frasca took an order for three FTDs from Southern Illinois University (Carbondale) that included two Cessna 172R FTDs and a Bombardier CRJ-200 level-5 FTD. SIU is also upgrading its existing Frasca 172R FTD to have the same features as the two new 172R devices, including Garmin G1000 avionics, three-channel projected cylindrical visual display (210- by-57 degrees) and low-profile instructor cab. Other general aviation training devices have recently gone to Korea and operators in Europe, including a Sikorsky S-76C++ level-B full-flight simulator delivered to Bristow in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Though the company’s FTD business is thriving, Frasca is taking a strong step into the rarified atmosphere of the level-D simulator market. It has been building FAA-certified level-B and -C simulators for the past 10 years, primarily for aircraft such as Beechcraft King Airs, Embraer Phenoms and Cessna Mustangs.
“We’ve now entered the FAA level-D market and our first project is a Cessna CJ1+,” Frasca said. “The level-B and -C markets served us well because they gave us extensive experience with motion platforms and data collection. The level-C simulator is high fidelity but the level-D requires even more data and testing because training with it does not require actual aircraft time. We have a lot of experience with aircraft performance data collection; enough so that other manufacturers are coming to us to buy data packages.”
Frasca said another key issue is that the company’s manufacturing process is vertically integrated. “Except for the actual motion platform, we prefer to design, build and use our own components, including visual systems,” he said. “It gives us the ability to design a component specifically to meet our requirements and we have total control over production time. Overall, Frasca International is in a very good position as we continue to expand into new areas and grow as a company.”