Brad Thress, who 14 months ago took over as FlightSafety International’s fourth president and CEO, told members of the Wichita Aero Club Tuesday that he’s committed to improving pilot training and making the company more efficient as it marks 70 years in business. It was Thress’s first public appearance in Wichita since taking on the post at FlightSafety last March, following his retirement from a 28-year career at Textron Aviation.
Thress said a key focus for FlightSafety is enhancing the training experience for its customers, which ultimately will “make people feel better prepared, not just compliant, in their training.” FlightSafety plans to do that partly by focusing on “where people hurt each other,” which Thress said is generally near the runway on approaches and departures. The company is also working with some of its larger flight departments to customize training based on pilot performance, using flight operations quality assurance information.
“We can trend that data on a specific pilot and customize his training program so if he’s always coming over the fence 20 feet too high and 10 knots too hot, we can craft some scenarios for him to help him get that back under control,” Thress said. In its helicopter training, FlightSafety is incorporating encounters with IMC scenarios. It is also adding in-aircraft training as a complement to simulator training.
“In the mid-1990s, when I was getting most of my type ratings, you would do 85 percent of your training in a sim and then you’d go do a portion of it in the airplane,” Thress said. “And that was normal.” But as level-D simulators became the standard, that went away. “So for people getting their first type rating…we’re back doing that again,” he added, emphasizing that through these and other training initiatives, “we want people to leave feeling like they’re a safer pilot than when they came."
One area where FlightSafety is improving its costs of doing business is on the manufacturing side. Thress said flight simulator production is a highly competitive business, noting that consolidation has recently occurred in this business. To remain competitive, FlightSafety has standardized the manufacture of the shell and motion system on every simulator it produces at its Broken Arrow, Oklahoma production facility while having a “roll-on, roll-off cockpit” specific to an airplane model. “That’s been very helpful to taking cost out,” he explained.