Eleven years ago, CAE established Latin America's first independent civil aviation training centre near Sao Paulo's Guarulhos international airport. Today, that centre - now expanded to 10 bays - is one of five centres that the Canadian simulator manufacturer and training provider will be operating in the region by the end of the year to serve its burgeoning airline sector.
"We have been right there with the growth of the industry in Brazil and Latin America," says Jeff Roberts, CAE's group president for civil simulation products, training and services. "In fact, we've been ahead of the curve. We have gone from one facility to five in a decade and they are all growing." CAE, which has 35 simulator centres throughout the world, remains the only major training provider in Brazil, although Boeing has a facility in Argentina.
CAE has centres in Santiago in Chile, Taluca in Mexico and Lima in Peru. However, it is Sao Paulo that remains the heart of its Latin American activities. An extension this year to its Guarulhos facility - which has Brazilian airlines Gol and TAM as its anchor clients - is adding four simulator bays.
Five of the machines at the Guarulhos facility are Airbus (A320 and A330) and four Boeing (three 737 and one 777). Its first rotorcraft simulator - a Sikorsky S-76++, a joint venture with Brazilian helicopter operator Lider, will take up the 10th bay. Further Sikorsky S-92 and Eurocopter EC225 machines will be added in 2014.
CAE's original centre near Sao Paulo's Guarulhos airport has just been expanded
The move into helicopters in South America is an important one for CAE, which operates seven other helicopter-training facilities. Brazil's oil and gas platform transport sector is expanding fast. Lider, which operates more than 50 helicopters and claims to represent half the market, has been CAE's training representative in Brazil for several years.
In April, CAE announced that it would be building a second, six-bay Sao Paulo site, with TAM as anchor client, this time at the downtown Conghonas airport, close to TAM's headquarters. The facility will open in the second half of the year and initially provide training for Airbus A320 pilots as well as, for the first time, Embraer. A Phenom 100 and 300 simulator is being built, and will offer training for the light and very light business jets in a joint venture with the Brazilian airframer. The growing need for pilots in Brazil and Latin America is also prompting CAE to consider a move further down the learning route. CAE recently launched its Global Academy, a network of joint ventures with ab initio training schools. So far, there are none in the region, but Roberts hints that conversations with potential partners are ongoing and "you may hear something this year".