In parallel with global business jet sales, pilot training activity is, for the most part, stable and growing somewhat, particularly in new markets. At the same time, flight-training providers are reporting unprecedented growth in the civil helicopter sector, with much of this being driven by a surge in demand for rotorcraft support in the booming offshore oil and gas industries, plus the deployment of new-generation helicopter simulator technology.
Here at the EBACE show this week, FlightSafety International (FSI) is announcing that it has received EASA approval for its new Gulfstream G650 flight simulators in Savannah, Georgia. Earlier this year, FSI’s Embraer Legacy 650 simulator in St. Louis, Missouri, was qualified by EASA, FAA and Brazil’s ANAC aviation authority.
Meanwhile, CAE’s Bombardier Challenger 604/605 simulator in Dubai has been blessed by EASA, as well as regulatory authorities in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and the U.S. The Falcon 7X and Falcon 2000 EASy trainers at CAE’s Burgess Hill facility near London Gatwick Airport also got the EASA all-clear for the new Dassault Falcon EASy II avionics package.
But beyond these developments in the bizjet arena, the action in training and simulation is almost all helicopters. With oil and gas rigs moving further offshore, as much as 200 or more miles, and the requirement to ferry 15 to 20 workers at a time, demand is spiking for larger, long-range transport helicopters such as the Sikorsky S-92, Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma and AgustaWestland AW189, which is expected to be certified this year.
“We are seeing tremendous growth and opportunity in the helicopter training market, especially in offshore oil operations,” said FSI communications vice president Steve Phillips. “The large fleet operators are looking to have simulators located close to their bases. In addition, the number of flight crews per helicopter tends to be much greater than it is with fixed-wing aircraft. [The operators] are much less willing to have their pilots and technicians travel to get their training.”
In March, FSI and Sikorsky announced six new simulators for the civil rotary-wing market. Four of the new trainers are S-92, and are to be deployed in Norway, Brazil and Southeast Asia–all new helicopter-centric training facilities–as well as in Lafayette, Louisiana, on the U.S. Gulf Coast. FSI currently offers S-92 training at its Farnborough facility in the UK and in West Palm Beach, Florida.
CAE (Booth 372) is building an AW189 for its Rotorsim joint venture with AgustaWestland and has announced plans for an S-92 flight simulator in a new facility in Stavanger, Norway, as well as an interchangeable cockpit S-92/EC225 trainer for São Paulo, Brazil. “Brazil is exploding, and there’s always a lot of activity in the North Sea,” said Rob Lewis, CAE’s vice president and general manager for business aviation, helicopter and maintenance training. “The helicopter training market has a better near-term outlook than in business aviation. We’re very bullish on the opportunities.”
The Montreal, Canada-based group recently installed the first civil helicopter level-D flight simulator in Asia, an S-76 model at its Zhuhai Flight Training Center joint venture with China Southern Airlines. The manufacturer also has positioned an S-76 device in São Paulo, together with Brazilian partner Líder Aviação, the largest helicopter operator in Brazil. A new AW139 simulator at Rotorsim in Sesto Calende, Italy, recently received level-D approval from Italian authority ENAC.
The AW139 and two S-76s represent the first full-motion versions of CAE’s 3000 Series helicopter simulation technology. The most striking design feature is a direct-projection dome display (rather than traditional collimation), coupled with a helicopter-specific visual database. The display bowl, which enables a vertical field of view of 80 degrees by 210 degrees horizontal, can present a seamless image out the cockpit windows as well as through the “chin window” beneath the pilot’s feet.
“Customers wanted a larger field of view, especially in the vertical, so they could see the landing,” explained Peter Cobb, CAE global operations leader for helicopter training. According to Cobb, the 3000 Series whole-cockpit vibration platform represents a completely new, all-electric design to go with the electric six-degrees-of-freedom simulator motion system.
FlightSafety (Booth 471) has opted for glass-mirror displays, which Phillips claimed, “provide superior optical performance, sharper image clarity and long-term reliability, and are night-vision capable.” The glass technology derives from FSI’s acquisition four years ago of Glass Mountain Optics in Austin, Texas. According to the company, the true collimated images they present are free of visible distortions and artifacts out to mirror edge and “ground rush” distortion in the bottom field of view. FlightSafety’s new level-D AW139 simulator in Lafayette is equipped with a glass-mirror display.
FSI’s Eurocopter EC135 simulator in Dallas, Texas, is now FAA-qualified for night-vision-goggle (NVG) training. The New York-based company also moved its S-76B simulator from West Palm Beach to Dallas.
Less than five years ago, FSI and CAE, between them, had only a handful of helicopter simulators. By next year, they will each have more than 20 fielded worldwide.
Instructional Innovation for Bizjet Training
On the bizjet training side, Phillips expects “modest growth” to continue throughout 2013. “The market in Europe for FlightSafety’s training is stable. The addition of the Falcon 7X at our Paris center has had a positive impact,” he told AIN.
About half of training for Europe-based business aircraft operators is now conducted at FSI’s locations in Farnborough and Paris, compared with a few years ago when perhaps 70 percent traveled to the US. Training of Middle East customers “has increased by more than 30 percent in the last five years,” Phillips said. “The majority of courses are for Gulfstream operators.”
Worldwide, market leader FSI has about three times as many bizjet simulators as second-place CAE. However, CAE offers more training sites outside North America.
Innovation in business aviation training recently has been more focused on instructional technique than technology. FSI, for example, is now using an approach called “operational day flow,” which concentrates training sessions on city pairs to which the operator is likely to fly. “It introduces the pilot to all the required knowledge through a series of defined flight plans and city pairs,” explained Phillips. “It presents information related to the procedures and tasks that a pilot needs to be able to safely accomplish by phase of flight rather than being introduced to the information one system at a time. Each initial ground school training period is delivered using a defined flight and city pair, with the instructor using FSI’s Matrix or other media toolsets to demonstrate the procedure and tasks that are the training objectives for that phase of flight. We currently offer this program for approximately 20 aircraft and will continue to expand it in the future.”
Real-life scenarios have become part of several CAE business aircraft courses using an evidence-based training approach called RealCase. Instructors present a case study of a situation derived from actual incident reports on the aircraft type for which they are training. Students are challenged to identify the root cause and proper course of action to safely manage the problem.
CAE is also emphasizing specialized training for dealing with stall and unusual attitude situations in flight. They expanded its partnership with Advanced Performance Solutions (APS) in Mesa, Arizona, for a second U.S. upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) location, which began operating this spring in Dallas. APS also launched its first European “all-attitude” training program in the Netherlands at Seppe Airport in Bosschenhoofd. All three APS sites feature a combination of ground school, in-flight training using aerobatic aircraft and simulator sessions at nearby CAE facilities.