Boeing Training and Flight Services has been working nearly as long on the preparation for training 787 pilots, maintenance technicians and cabin crew as the aircraft itself has been in gestation.
Now Boeing's purpose-designed, almost paperless 787 instruction system, married with completely integrated training suites to take pilots through classroom to full flight simulator, are already preparing technical crews and management pilots for the launch customer, All Nippon Airways.
Customers for the aircraft can choose from five locations out of Boeing's 18 worldwide "campuses" that already operate 787 training suites. These include Seattle, Singapore, Tokyo, London Gatwick and Shanghai, and they will operate a total of eight full-flight simulators between them. They also have cabin door and cabin systems simulators for flight attendant training.
"The innovations of the 787 Dreamliner don't end with the airplane itself," explains Sherry Carbary, vice-president Boeing Flight Services. "Boeing is changing the game through continued innovation in our advanced suite of training technologies."
The integrated suite of electronic training devices that Carbary refers to was designed by Thales to a Boeing specification. It starts with a fully wired classroom where pilots and technicians can learn about the aircraft systems at the same time as familiarising themselves with the laptop/tablet/electronic flight bag with which they will work on the line or in the hangar. These are plugged into the classroom network so the instructor can monitor students' progress.
Following the classroom stage, technicians and pilots progress to the flight training device, which is powered by the same software, where they can familiarise themselves with the flightdeck equipment and controls, and become adept at systems manipulation, but at a fraction of the cost of learning in a full-flight simulator.
It is a fixed-base device, but has moving controls and throttles, working flight instruments, engine and systems displays, so it can "fly". Multipurpose display screens above the instrument panel coaming can be selected to show simulated external visual cues, including the head-up displays that are superimposed on the external view.
For the flightcrew, the final step in the Thales training suite is the full-flight simulator from which, depending on their experience, pilots can emerge with a zero flight time 787 type rating.
Carbary comments: "By bringing this cutting-edge training directly to airlines in the regions of the world where they're based and serve their passengers, we're offering our customers flexibility and efficiency in flightcrew training."
She is not talking only about pilots, cabin crew and systems maintenance technicians. One of the 787's unique points is the extent to which composite materials are used in the airframe. It is the first large passenger aircraft for which the fuselage is entirely composite, so Boeing has had to prepare training for customers' engineers in how to repair composite materials.
Back to the classroom for a moment: when they first start instruction, mechanics and pilots both learn about aircraft systems using the same tools they will use at work. This is a new experience, with the potential to be highly effective in imparting systems knowledge and consolidating understanding.
The "manuals" are contained in an identical laptop/tablet/electronic flight bag, the same one used by each of the specialisations on the line. Pilots as well as technicians learn to use the tablets for diagnostics and repair. On-screen graphics can, in virtual reality, walk the student through the process of system diagnostics, and the geographical process of identifying a faulty line replaceable unit, locating it, and the removal and replacement process. It would enable a pilot on a diversion caused by a faulty box to diagnose which one it was, and if a replacement was available, the pilots would have a demonstration of how to fit and test it.
Another simple advantage of having all the manuals contained in a Toshiba tablet is that the students' traditional flight bags are less heavy; and they can take the computers back to their rooms to practise what they have learned.
Boeing explains its training suite like this: "The use of real-time simulation in the maintenance training environment allows practice on the same tools in the classroom that the mechanics use on the actual aircraft. Desktop simulation is integrated into the classroom and throughout the course. "Additionally, a 3D virtual airplane is used where students can walk around the aeroplane and operate key functions." That would include walking around the aircraft exterior to locate the access hatch, opening it by operating the fasteners, and climbing inside to find the equipment that needed attention.
The 787 flight training device, according to Boeing, "provides flightcrews with the same flight management and control systems as the full-flight simulator, making it ideal for instrument familiarisation and reinforcing knowledge of airplane systems. It develops proficiency in all normal procedures, simple non-normal procedures, the flight management system, auto-flight operations, and display operations. It also includes electronic flight bags and head-up displays, and enables flightcrews to become familiar with complex non-normal procedures."
When the pilots are familiar with flight routines and systems operation from their use of the flight training device, they move to the full-flight simulator to become familiar with the 787 in normal flight operations. Boeing explains: "It includes dual heads-up displays and the class 3 EFB. The line-oriented simulation training verifies proficiency in normal procedures. The simulator is designed to train pilots to become proficient in visual manoeuvres, instrument landing system and non-ILS approaches, missed approaches using integrated approach navigation, non-normal procedures - with emphasis on those affecting handling characteristics - and windshear and rejected take-off training."
Training course requirements vary according to the amount and relevance of experience that pilots and technicians bring with them from working on other fleets. For example pilots with no previous Boeing experience can convert to the 787 in 20 working days, according to the Federal Aviation Administration-approved syllabus. Current 777 pilots can convert with only a five-day differences course, and from other Boeing types it takes 13 working days to win a 787 type rating.
Beyond the cockpit and the cabin, Boeing has to enable customers to ensure that their maintenance personnel can maintain and repair composite structures. The manufacturer offers composites training in Miami and Singapore.
Composites training is split between classroom instruction and hands-on skills development in a purpose-built composite training facility. There are three different course levels in the composite repair training curriculum. These include:
The inspectors course: designed to teach the basic construction and properties of 787 composite materials. During the training the students learn how to perform an inspection and analysis to make a "fix or fly" judgement on 787 composite damage, and how to perform a quick composite repair.
The technicians' course: teaches students how to carry out repairs in accordance with the 787 structural repair manual.
The engineers' course: to teach students how to design repairs using approved Boeing design data.
Each 787 customer is provided with an allocation of training points per aircraft according to the number purchased, and they can use these at any of the Boeing training centres. Since the 787 has sold an unprecedented total of 835 aircraft before service entry, Boeing's Training and Flight Services division faces a considerable challenge to help airlines meet the 787's needs.
Boeing will be integrating its training obligations to its 787 customers' needs for expert personnel with those of customers for its other types. It will also be competing with the rest of the commercial air transport industry for suitably educated trainee engineers, pilots and technicians who are prepared to join an expanding industry and undergo training for it.