While the effects of the Covid-19 crisis have touched virtually every aspect of the aviation industry, the pandemic’s resulting limitations on classroom instruction could have hit companies such as FlightSafety International particularly hard. But as schools around the world see mixed results in their efforts to balance education needs with health imperatives, FlightSafety characterizes its remote LiveLearning program as broadly successful, delivering 1,750 pilot courses and 1,095 mechanics courses since its introduction in March.
LiveLearning differs from the company’s well-established eLearning offerings in that it replicates the classroom environment with a live instructor. Most recently, the company has expanded its LiveLearning offerings to include EASA-approved courses taught from its facilities in Paris and Farnborough, UK.
FlightSafety senior v-p of operations Brian Moore told AIN that, particularly for recurrent training, the program has “boomed” since its launch in March, both among pilots and mechanics. V-p of sales and marketing Steve Gross explained that the company did something similar for ancillary courses such as RVSM and MMEL training for three or four years before the pandemic.
“We took that technology and broadened it to do a two- or three-day recurrent,” said Gross. “We’ve done the rare initial [training] this way too, but we really want to keep it to recurrent. We think that it’s best if you’re doing an initial to do it at the facility.”
Gross added that the demand for the training has come from across the fleet, notably the Dassault Falcon 900, 2000, and 7X; Gulfstream G280 and G650; and Cessna Citation Sovereign. “It’s a really interesting mix, the take-up of it,” said Gross. “The quality of the instruction has not suffered. We still use our technology from the classroom and present it online. You can ask a question in general so the whole class can hear, or what they’ve done is set up a private chat for the attendees.”
For those who prefer to remain in the classroom, FlightSafety must follow all mandated health and cleaning protocols, and the company has gained FAA relief from requirements that students don oxygen masks as part of their training.
Further relief from the FAA took the form of a “virtually” certified flight simulator in Dallas. “So rather than having the inspector sitting in the box with us going through the qualification, we brought him in through video and other web-based means to see all the squiggly lines and see the thing fly and do the demo and all the things that would normally be done,” explained Moore.
The FAA has also given FlightSafety some relief on the number of days and hours needed for FAR 61.58 recurrent proficiency checks in some programs, said Moore. “The FAA has just given us very recently some flexibility in being able to deliver those checks in a reduced footprint…I think everybody’s a little shocked, but the FAA has been outstanding in terms of supporting the things that needed to be done here.”
Of course, FlightSafety and all training organizations need flexibility from regulators at a time when enrollment has fallen due to Covid-related demand weakness and border closures into the U.S., where much of the training takes place. However, domestic operations have recovered to a great degree since a low point in April, along with business aviation operations in general. “I’ll tell you April was a tough month, but things have continued to grow since then,” said Gross. “And I think what you’re seeing [is] the light jet, medium jet, and part of the charter industry is coming back pretty strong. We’re seeing that same thing.”
Meanwhile, FlightSafety’s Farnborough and Paris centers have resumed operating after national Covid restrictions forced their closure, meaning all of the company’s facilities worldwide are open. “We’re seeing a pretty good resurgence in business,” added Moore. “The international—just due to various travel-ban concerns—has been the more challenging market, but domestically it’s been strong for us.”