The world of business aviation pilot training is changing - and many of these changes are being reflected by the sizeable contingent of training and safety specialists exhibiting at this year's NBAA.
Just as the global fleet of business jets is becoming less concentrated in the traditional markets of North America and Europe, so too are training providers based in these regions looking to expand their footprints to emerging markets.
At the same time, specific training curriculums are being targeted at the increasing number of corporate and charter operators who fly internationally, as business aviation becomes an ever more vital component of an interconnected global economy.
Training philosophy is changing too - in business aviation as in the airline sector - with an understanding of crew resource management and other human factors seen as necessary complement to keeping flight crew current on the technical aspects of flying an aircraft.
Recurrent training and an unerring focus on safety is also being seen as applying not just to flight crew but to all supporting parts of the business, maintains William Hattler, general manager of South Carolina-based Advanced Air Crew Academy (booth 4493), which provides online and face-to-face training courses for small to mid-size corporate aircraft owners.
"Training is something that needs to permeate the whole flight department. It used to be just the pilot who would learn to fly the airplane and that's where it often stopped. Now you need to involve the admin people, the maintenance guys and everyone responsible for getting the airplane from A to B," he says.
Part of the momentum for this has been provided by the worldwide International Business Aviation Council standard, which brings corporate flight departments into line with the requirements expected of Part 135 charter operators, says Hattler. Insurance companies have also provided impetus, offering discounts to companies that adhere to the IBAC code.
The growing internationalization of business aviation is creating challenges for trainers, says Shawn Scott of Colorado-based Scott International Procedures (booth 2523), which specializes in keeping operators compliant with rules and best practice for conducting international flights. He says the company has seen a 15% increase in companies making these sorts of missions for the first time over the past year.
"We are seeing more and more US corporates flying across the ocean to Europe and Asia, and they are taking midsize aircraft, even Learjets or Hawkers," he says. "A guy in a [Gulfstream] G650 or [Bombardier] Global climbs above everything and flies direct to Shannon, but take a Learjet 45 to Europe and you really need to do some planning."
Flying international routes "requires in-depth knowledge", says Scott. "We take operators to a level where they have an understanding way beyond the minimum required. Traditionally, a pilot flying over the Atlantic who had a problem would press on or go back to base. We show them how to cross traffic to land, say, at Keflavik. What we are trying to do is teach people advanced procedures that will really protect you in these airspaces."
The two big beasts of business aviation training - CAE and FlightSafety - are also at NBAA. CAE (booth 364), a Canadian manufacturer of simulators that has become the biggest player in training provision across commercial, business aviation and military pilot training, is pushing its growing international credentials.
"We are confident in the long-term growth of the global business aviation training market," says Jeff Roberts, CAE group president of civil simulation products, training and services. "This is evidenced by our continued investment in new training locations worldwide. We have recently added new training locations in Sao Paulo with our partner Embraer, Melbourne, and soon in Shanghai."
The Montreal-based company, says Roberts, has also been expanding its simulator fleet, including a Challenger 604/605 in Dubai, King Air 350 ProLine 21 in Australia, Phenom 100 and 300 in Sao Paulo, Gulfstream 450/550 in Shanghai, the new Nextant 400XT in Dallas.
During NBAA, CAE will announce the expansion of a partnership with Aviation Performance Solutions to deliver upset recovery and prevention training in Dallas, using a blend of web-based academics, in-flight instruction and full-flight simulator practice.
Virtual training is also on the agenda, with initiatives on distance learning program CAE Virtual Ground School and RealCase, a scenario library which uses a collaborative environment among peers and instructors to explore training scenarios using recent real-life events. In addition, CAE is introducing new 3D virtual environments for "more immersive and realistic" maintenance training.
Rival FlightSafety is at NBAA to push its new Customer Care program, which offers a range of initiatives to clients, including the ability for pilots and technicians to maintain their skills when they are between jobs. Another initiative will allow customers to schedule their training online.
The New York-based training company has also been adding to its portfolio, beginning Gulfstream G650 and G280 training programs, following the certification of the types. Training for the Gulfstream G650 using two full flight simulators is provided at FlightSafety's Learning Center in Savannah. The Dallas Learning Center offers training for the Gulfstream G280 using one full flight simulator. Its Bombardier Global 5000/6000 simulator based at Columbus, Ohio has also received EASA and FAA Level D accreditation. Training will be available to operators from January.
While simulator sessions are designed primarily to make sure flight crew can cope with the technical and operational aspects of a cockpit, the role of a business aviation pilot is much wider than being able to simply master the controls of the aircraft, argues Advanced Air Crew Academy's Hattler.
"Their skills have to be broader than those of an airline pilot. Airline pilots have very specific routes. They know them very well and have a dispatch department that files the flight plan and decides whether the plane should go," he says. "But as a corporate pilot, there will be times you will be filing your own flight plan, making sure all the correct documentation is on board and deciding if the plane should go. You are the [one] doing everything from the ground up - very much the mission commander."
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