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Lockheed Martin Targeting Commercial Simulation Market

 - June 18, 2015, 6:50 AM
Having acquired a Netherlands-based flight simulator company, Lockheed Martin is making a play for what it sees as a lucrative civil training market. Acknowledging that the field is already well populated, Lockheed counts on its critical mass in military circles to translate into success on the civil side.

The Netherlands-based business formerly known as Sim-Industries is hoping the management muscle and process prowess of parent company Lockheed Martin (Chalet 316) will elevate it into the top echelons of the commercial flight simulation and training services sector.

“We want to harness the power of the military side of Lockheed Martin into the commercial side, especially in flight and aerospace activities,” Neal Tomblyn told AIN on a recent visit to LM’s new Commercial Flight Training (CFT) headquarters in Sassenheim, near Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Tomblyn is the new director of business development and strategy for CFT.

A wholly owned subsidiary, CFT resides within the training and logistics solutions section of Lockheed Martin’s Missions Systems and Training group, one of its five business “pillars.” Tomblyn said Lockheed Martin is investing heavily to counterbalance its U.S.-focused military business with more commercial and international presence.

“We want to become a global company, not just a U.S. company that does business internationally,” he said. “And we want to transition our military technology into commercial markets.”

The CFT engineering team has a surfeit of challenges currently: its first level-D full-flight simulators for the Boeing 767, 777, and 787 models in development for FedEx, Lufthansa, and Aeromexico, respectively.

Program excellence manager Allyson Kukel said the three widebody projects have limited the company’s recent simulator output, which had reached a peak of 14 devices in 2013 but tapered to just two last year, according to simulator census lists. A total of 43 level-D sims are credited to Sim-Industries and Lockheed Martin to date, or an average of about 10 per year deployed since 2010.

Nonetheless, Kukel thinks Lockheed Martin CFT is positioning to challenge commercial airline simulator front-runner CAE (Chalet 56), which sold 41 simulators last year and an industry-record 48 the year before, and other well-funded competitors such as Textron’s TRU Simulation + Training (Static A4), Rockwell Collins (Chalet 21, Hall 2b D108), and L-3 Link (Chalet 306).

“There was a monopoly in the simulator business, and the market wanted to see different players,” Kukel said. “Sim-Industries was not a big player, but now as part of Lockheed Martin we’re recognized as a very strong competitor.”

Following the Lockheed Martin takeover in 2011, CFT landed deals with Lufthansa and FedEx and in May the company added low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines of Denver, Colorado to their roster for an A320 simulator.

Lockheed Martin’s foremost customer is Pan Am International Flight Academy, which has three 737-800 devices at its Miami center, a fourth in Las Vegas and an A320-200 installed last year in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Sassenheim building might also house a flight training center, Kukel indicated. Lockheed Martin already provides commercial airline training services in São Paulo (four 737-800 simulators) in collaboration with Brazilian airline GOL, and at Incheon airport in Seoul, Korea (an A320 and two 737-800 sims).

Tomblyn said CFT is mulling its next strategic moves, which include more training centers and possibly entry into the ab initio training sector. “Nothing is out of the question. Expansion within our training centers, expansion with airlines around the world, services as standalone, services in partnership. Buying a simulator is not necessarily the only business model,” he said.