Business aviation continues to grow in China and the rest of the Asia region, and the demand for pilots and technicians is stronger than ever. With a generally accepted ratio of five qualified pilots required for each business jet in service, supplying training for those pilots–and the technicians who will service the aircraft–remains one of the industry’s more profound challenges.
Training providers CAE (Booth P528) and FlightSafety International (Booth H112) have dedicated strategies to help meet those needs. While the majority of local ab initio pilots see the cockpit of an airliner as their office of choice, government restrictions on “importing” foreign pilots mean that a substantial portion of the business aviation workforce must come from homegrown sources.
Last year, CAE installed its first Gulfstream full flight simulator in Shanghai, “to better address demand emerging from the growing China market and surrounding Asia region,” according to a spokesman. CAE cites a positive outlook for business aviation training in Asia. “Over the past five years alone, Asia’s business aviation fleet doubled, while China’s fleet was multiplied by three. We expect Asia’s share of the global fleet to continue to grow, and our plan is to continue to deploy simulators where best suited, in order to address market demand,” the spokesman told AIN.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) requires all training materials to be translated into Mandarin, a daunting challenge for programs that include vast volumes of printed and online material. In addition, Chinese instructor pilots must have at least 100 hours logged as pilot-in-command on the aircraft type for which they are instructing. This has proved a challenge for training providers, and CAE reports it currently has three local G450/550 instructor pilots working at its Shanghai facility.
At present, CAE plans to address Asian training needs for other aircraft types with facilities located in Europe, the Middle East and North America. The company installed a Global Vision simulator in Amsterdam last year and plans to deploy another in Dubai later this year, both of which will serve Asian customers, said the spokesman. Simulators have been added for the Challenger 604 in Amsterdam; and two more G450/550 devices are now in Burgess Hill, UK; and Dallas, Texas, all of which will benefit Asian customers. A Falcon 7X simulator is due to be deployed next year in a location to be determined. With its range and fuel efficiency, the 7X has found a fertile market in Asia.
CAE has not ignored the maintenance needs of the business aviation fleet in China and the surrounding territories. “CAE has been providing business aviation maintenance training in China and the Pacific Rim for various aircraft types: [Embraer’s] Phenom 300; [Dassault’s] Falcon 7X, 900EX EASy and 2000EX EASy; and [Bombardier’s] Global Express, to name a few. Theoretical courses are often delivered at the customer site to help the operators and MROs reduce their travel costs and minimize downtime for their technical staff,” said the spokesman. But some customers do choose to send their technicians to CAE’s facilities in Europe and North and South America. Customers with a minimum of four participants are welcomed to host CAE training sessions at their own facilities.
FlightSafety in Hong Kong
Meanwhile, FlightSafety International has also experienced strong demand for its single Gulfstream G450/550 simulator in Hong Kong. Installed in February 2012, the simulator saw double the usage in 2013, according to FSI senior vice president David Davenport. “Activity in Hong Kong has been very strong,” Davenport told AIN. Still, the company does not have plans at this time to add new business aviation simulators in the region, focusing on regional airline training with its Q400 simulator in Tokyo, for example. “We recently sold an [Airbus] A320 simulator in China,” said Davenport.
FSI does have a strong focus on business aviation training in the region, said Davenport, not just in China but also in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. Having started with the Gulfstream simulator two years ago, he said, initial plans called for bringing in foreign instructors for two-year commitments. It was hoped they might sign on for additional time, and in fact, Davenport said, “The initial commitment expired in December and six of seven of them added another year to their deal.”
Faced with many of the same CAAC regulations as CAE’s program, FSI also launched efforts to recruit local instructors. It added two Chinese instructors last year to the Gulfstream program and Davenport was pleased to report two more Hong Kong citizens have joined the team.
FSI is also active in delivering training at European, North American and Middle East facilities to serve Asian customers who are willing to travel. Asked about what simulators for other aircraft types FSI would consider adding in the Pacific Rim, Davenport said it was tough to say. “Actually, a rotorcraft simulator might be the next one we bring to the region,” he said.
“China continues to be a hot market,” said Davenport. “The challenge is finding qualified pilots. There is a lot of ab initio training [for airlines], but there is a need for left seat, PICs [pilot-in-command]. China has not yet embraced the MPL [multi-crew pilot license]. But it looks like China will follow the EASA model.”
As for maintenance, FSI also conducts on-site training programs for local Asian technicians. FSI trains its personnel at Gulfstream’s Savannah, Georgia, and Long Beach, California facilities. Much of the training is delivered through an agreement with Lufthansa Technik in Haikau, Japan. FSI creates the syllabus and trains the Lufthansa Technik teachers who then transfer the skills to local Asian customers. FSI also provides powerplant training in Beijing, Singapore and Brisbane, Australia, through an agreement with Pratt & Whitney Canada.
CAE and FSI both view the economic and political situation in China as improving for business aviation. Restrictions have been relaxed on general aviation flight plans, airport and airway infrastructure are improving, taxes and duties on parts and other essentials have eased and the network of FBOs and MRO facilities seems to be gaining greater critical mass every year. As the limits on business jet operations are lifted, the demand will grow ever stronger. With that demand, the need for local training facilities for pilots and technicians will continue to increase.