A combination of growth from new business aviation markets such as the Middle East and Asia and recovery in the more mature markets of Europe and North America has inspired flight-training provider CAE to triple investments in facilities. Half of all investment is going into new simulators. The group has been adding these at a rate of two to four each year and expects to install another 25 new units at its worldwide locations over the next five years.
Rob Lewis, vice president and general manager of CAE’s global Business Aviation, Helicopter and Maintenance Training division, told AIN that the company also has been seeking to improve the overall training experience for operators and their flight crew. This has involved enhancements to the training centers to ensure greater continuity with customers’ own working environments at their bases. CAE has also been focusing on changes in training requirements and is seeking to help operators manage these more efficiently with improved processes and new software.
In its Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) region, CAE has training centers in Burgess Hill, near London, Amsterdam and Dubai. At Shanghai, the company has the only business aircraft full-flight simulator installed in Mainland China. These facilities have a combined total of 21 simulators.
According to Lewis, the EMEA market for business aviation training grew by about 20 percent last year in terms of both revenues and training activity rates. Although growth rates were higher outside Europe itself, CAE has seen some European clients adding aircraft and crew lately. In particular, he said that the market has been buoyed by strong deliveries of larger aircraft, which require more crew to operate.
“Since around a year-and-a-half ago we’ve been running our business aviation training segment as a global [rather than regional] business, allowing us to focus more on overall customer needs,” said Lewis. “The growth has stabilized and we are bullish about the future so we have decided to increase investment in infrastructure around the world.”
Better Training Tools
In CAE’s view, the flight-training industry as a whole is somewhat behind other sectors in customer service standards. It is seeking to introduce better tools for activities such as scheduling training and providing the necessary records.
The company recently implemented a new electronic records system that keeps track of all of its clients’ special training requirements and more efficiently gets updated training records back to the operators. “Not being able to quickly and easily keep track of records is frustrating for operators,” said Lewis.
The new system already is handling about half of all training records at CAE’s U.S. facilities and about 10 percent of the records in Europe. Its use is now being expanded.
“The main differentiator [with other training providers] is how easy it is to customize training programs with us,” said Lewis. “Operators can easily add training to cover things such as the LCY [London City Airport] approach or extra CRM [crew resource management]. There is more emphasis [by regulators] these days on AOC holders fully owning their own training.”
At CAE’s Amsterdam facility it has done some remodeling so that the working environment is closer to that of an FBO, where most of its customers spend their days. The company is improving customer lounges and providing additional services such as travel planning. Classrooms also are being updated with new interactive flat-screen displays and more modern courseware.
“There is not a lot of scope for differentiating the actual delivery of training because most of what is required is specified by authorities such as EASA,” explained Lewis. “We have about 15 percent that we can play with by adding additional training topics above the regulatory minimum. But the mode of training delivery can make a real difference.”
One new EASA requirement is that pilots must undergo line checks that can be conducted only in aircraft (as opposed to simulators). “So we are getting requests to bundle ground-school simulator training with line checks and this is quite different from want we are used to doing,” said Lewis. “We may offer to provide instructors to do these checks separately [since CAE does not operate its own aircraft].”
One aspect of CAE’s new 7000XR simulator technology is that it can meet the new requirement for simulator operations quality analysis (SOQA). “It means operators can look at how training sessions went in more detail and leads to more evidence-based training techniques,” explained Lewis. “Some bigger EMEA operators are starting to talk about how to incorporate evidence-based training into their training programs but we haven’t seen anything implemented yet.”
In June, CAE will be deploying a new Gulfstream G350/450/500/550 simulator at the Burgess Hill center, which is close to London Gatwick Airport. Then in July it will install a new simulator for the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter at a customer location in Oslo, Norway. In January 2015, it is adding a Bombardier Global Express simulator with the Global Vision cockpit to its Dubai facility. Another Global Vision-equipped simulator was deployed at Amsterdam last January.
Meanwhile, CAE’s latest Simfinity classroom technology is allowing pilots to learn many basic elements of their training without having to consume valuable time in full-flight simulators. The Simfinity software allows these devices to be used to shadow the training provided in the simulators.
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