Textron has assembled a new flight simulator manufacturing and training company–TRU Simulation + Training–that its leaders believe will offer strong competition to entrenched players FlightSafety International and CAE.
TRU is lead by president and CEO James Takats, one of the founders of Florida-based simulator manufacturer Opinicus, which was purchased by Textron in November 2013. Textron also purchased Montreal-based Mechtronix last December, and the two companies were combined with a portion of Textron’s former AAI Logistics and Technical Services division to form TRU.
Another more recent acquisition earlier this month was ProFlight, a Cessna CitationJet and Conquest training provider based in Carlsbad, Calif. The combined entities mean that TRU now employs about 500 people in California, Florida, Montreal and Providence, Rhode Island, and the company is pursuing an aggressive hiring process to expand its new capabilities, including building out training centers modeled after the ProFlight setup.
“I enjoy creating and building,” said Takats, who had hoped to turn Opinicus into a major player in the simulator manufacturing and training market. “It’s different, but there are opportunities we didn’t have when I was with Opinicus. This is an opportunity to be a global company.”
Takats sees the market for pilot training growing due to demand from airlines and also business aircraft operators. “Our growth projections are significant.” Textron tends to build businesses in industries that have just three major competitors, and TRU fits nicely into this model, according to Takats. TRU is targeting four market segments: air transport; mission logistics and maintenance; business aviation and military; and training centers and services.
The ProFlight acquisition is intended to springboard TRU’s entry into the training center market. As a member of the Textron family, TRU plans to build and operate simulators for sister company Textron Aviation's Beechcraft and Cessna brands, as well as Textron's Bell Helicopter and other aircraft types. Takats admires ProFlight’s unique approach to training, which includes programs such as 365-day access to training centers for pilots who want to train between currency events, lack of a “check-the-box” mentality and ProFlight’s innovative online distance- learning ground school. “Textron has committed to invest heavily in this side of the business,” he said.
Simulators, Procedure Trainers and Desktops
Here at the Farnborough Airshow, TRU announced an exclusive deal to build full flight simulators for the Boeing 737 Max. The agreement includes the 737 Max FFS X simulators, flight and procedures trainers with 3D hardware components and desktop trainers for virtual cockpit training in the classroom. TRU also builds full flight simulators for the 737-700 and -800.
TRU also signed an agreement with Bell Helicopter to build the 525 Relentless full flight simulator, which will be certified to Level D standards. TRU’s Odyssey H FFS technology uses a high-definition visual system with 240-degree horizontal by 80-degree vertical field of view.
Earlier this month TRU announced it placed the first full flight simulator for the ATR-600 series in Latin America. The TRU FFS X Level D simulator is located at the Avianca training facilities in Bogota, Columbia and is training pilots for Avianca, Aeromar, LIAT, Uni Air and Caribbean Airlines.
Another opportunity that Takats is interested in targeting is the market for avionics training, which is fragmented and poorly served. “We are discussing with avionics manufacturers how we can [offer] that,” he said. “We’re looking for strategic partnerships.”
Meanwhile, TRU engineers are working on an entirely new generation of simulators, codenamed SuperSim.