As one of the commercial aircraft manufacturers predicting the need for more than a million new pilots and maintenance technicians over the next two decades, Boeing is ramping up its training capabilities. But its focus centers less on volume and more on making the training pipeline more efficient.
“What we have chosen to focus on from a strategic thrust is how you increase the effectiveness of training, increasing throughput with technology investment,” Stan Deal, chief executive officer of Boeing Global Services (BGS), told AIN. Boeing created the BGS business unit last July.
BGS spans the commercial, defense, and space sectors, and involves four areas of capability: supply chain; engineering, modifications, and maintenance; digital aviation and analytics; and training and professional services.
"[BGS] is chasing a rather sizeable business," said Deal. "The overall services market in aviation is about $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years. But it’s a very fragmented market. Unlike the commercial aircraft market where there are two or three major contenders, in the services segment there are hundreds if not thousands.” BGS’s share now totals “about 7-plus percent” in the commercial services market and 9 percent on the military side.
BGS counts 15 training centers on six continents, delivering courses for approximately 1,200 pilots, maintainers, and cabin crew annually. “We continue to expand each of our campuses,” said Deal. Singapore, for example, added 737 Max 8 (its first in Asia) and 787-9 simulators last year and now has commissioned seven full-flight sims on the site. The campus in Shanghai, in partnership with Shanghai Airlines, includes 787, 767/757 and 747 simulators.
“We’re not going to be the world’s largest training campus provider,” Deal said. “That’s not where we’re strategically focused. We want to have more of a technology-based focus on expansion where we innovate new ways to train, to shrink the footprint. [We will] continue to maintain safety while opening the spigot a little bit from a throughput perspective.”
Deal cited as one example an approach Southwest Airlines has taken for 737 Max training, pairing a captain and first officer throughout the curriculum, from classroom to full-flight simulator. “By optimizing the time in the most expensive assets, you shrink flow and cost. We’re rolling this out consistently across our Max operators,” Deal said.
Boeing has also ventured into the ab initio training arena with its purchase two years ago of German courseware specialist Peters Software. BGS is creating a customized, integrated system for managing cadet learning for the new Emirates Flight Training Academy using Peters’ EASA-endorsed software, the company announced in November. The Dubai school expects to grow to accommodate as many as 600 students.
For 787 Dreamliner maintenance training, Deal said BGS has applied virtual reality “to shorten the cycle time to get a mechanic ready to touch the 787.”
“The 787 is an innovative aircraft from a maintenance approach," he explained. "The interface is very different from an A320 or 777. The courseware we developed is extremely user-intuitive and effective.” Boeing can deliver the transportable vitural reality training at a Boeing training center or at the customer’s site.
“The cascade of growth across Asia is a little different,” noted Deal. “In China, we’ve seen strong growth but with a heavy regulatory mindset and a culture driven around safety. Obviously one country, one regulatory process. Southeast Asia is more fragmented with a lot of emerging customers, a lot of low-cost carriers. We’re making sure we’re keeping up with innovations that will allow efficient expansion of these customers in the market while being a responsible manufacturer and make sure they’re well-trained and qualified as we deliver the airplanes.”