As the global commercial airliner fleet steadily expands – at a rate of about 1,000 additional aircraft per year – the simulator market evolves at a much slower pace. In fact, FlightGlobal data shows the number of commercial simulators operating worldwide as holding fairly steady in the 1,200-unit range over the past four years, with retirements roughly equalling the number of new units coming into service. Full flight simulators (FSS) represent 85% of the total figure – slightly more than 1,000 devices.
The data shows just over 20 new devices have come into service since January 2016, including four FSS units for the upcoming Boeing 737 Max. These devices, provided by Tru Simulation and Training and operated by Boeing Flight Services, are located in Boeing’s Gatwick, Miami, Shanghai and Singapore training centres.
Nine of the simulators delivered in the past 16 months were built by CAE, while FlightSafety International provided five.
Four CAE simulators are currently available for the Bombardier CSeries, which began commercial operations in 2016 with launch carrier Swiss. Two of these devices (one FSS and a flight training device) are located at Bombardier Aerospace in Montreal. Another FSS is located in Frankfurt and operated by the Lufthansa-CAE joint venture Flight Training Alliance, while the fourth device is located in Zurich and operated by Swiss Aviation Training.
CAE has manufactured more than half of the devices operating in the airliner simulation market today. The second and third most important manufacturers by volume are L-3 Link Simulation & Training UK, and FlightSafety International, which account for 20% and 11% of the market respectively.
North America, the Asia-Pacific region and Europe account for 37%, 26% and 25% of the global presence respectively.
CAE also leads the field in operations, with just over 45 training centres in 26 countries, and 14% of all simulation operations. FlightSafety International operates 6% of the world’s devices across 15 locations in the US, Canada, France, Japan and the UK. Boeing Flight Services and American Airlines Flight Academy follow, with a share of 5% each.
Boeing types represent 45% of simulated aircraft, while 35% are dedicated to Airbus aircraft. Embraer, Bombardier and ATR account for 7%, 6% and 3% of simulated airliners respectively.
When it comes to aircraft types, the A320 and 737 families dominate with a combined count of nearly 40% of the simulators in service. Another 9% of simulators are for other narrowbody types, while 32% of global simulators are for widebody variants. The remaining 19% of the devices are for regional jet and turboprop types.
TRU TO THE MAX
US-based Tru Simulation and Training was formed in 2014 after Textron merged subsidiary AAI Corp with three new acquisitions: Mechtronix, Opinicus and ProFlight. The company quickly won Boeing’s order to develop the full flight simulator for its 737 Max pilot training centres. This order built upon a previous sale by Mechtronix of a full flight simulator for the 737NG family for Boeing’s flight training system. The delivery of the first 737 Max full flight simulator came in early 2017, as scheduled at the time of contract award.
In 2016 Boeing selected Tru as its prime supplier of 777X simulation training equipment, and ordered an initial unit. In the first quarter of 2017 the airframer purchased a second 777X full-flight simulator from Tru, with the units expected to be delivered and operational by the second half of 2019. The simulators will be installed at Boeing’s training sites in Singapore and the UK.
A350 TRAINING DEMAND IN ASIA
The Airbus A350 was introduced in 2015. Just under 90 aircraft are currently in service, while the order book is close to 750 units. Operators in Asia account for 35% of the customers and a total of 14 A350 simulators are currently in operation, including five based in Asia.
Airbus is expecting more demand for A350 training at its facility in Singapore, as carriers in the Asia-Pacific region gear up to take more deliveries. In anticipation of growth in training demand, the facility will add an A350 and an A320 simulator in 2019. The Singapore Seletar Aerospace Park facility also has two additional bays for further expansion.
When fully operational, the Singapore facility will have the capacity to offer courses to more than 10,000 trainees and deliver up to 35,000 hours of simulator training annually. The Airbus Asia Training Centre is a 55:45 joint venture between Airbus and Singapore Airlines and represents Airbus’s fourth training centre, with the other facilities in Toulouse, Beijing, and Miami.