Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

CAE is to build and operate a simulator centre near Toronto's Pearson Airport, the latest step in its move to enter the commercial pilot training market.

Canadian carriers Canada 3000 and Skyservice will be anchor customers for the centre, which is due to begin operations in the fourth quarter of next year, CAE's first training centre, in São Paulo, Brazil, will open early next year with Brazilian airline TAM as the launch customer.

The four-simulator Toronto centre represents an investment of C$60 million ($40 million) and will have capacity to serve other North American airlines, as well as regional and business aircraft operators, says CAE. Interim training services will begin this month at the company's Montreal plant.

Canada 3000, meanwhile, is to operate a cabin safety training centre in Toronto in partnership with Pan Am International Flight Academy. The centre will house evacuation, door, exit, slide and fire- fighting trainers

Already the dominant supplier of commercial flight simulators, CAE launched its training centre initiative earlier this year as part of a strategy to double earnings over the next three years.

"The total equipment market is $600 million a year: the total training market is $8-10 billion a year. It's that huge difference which is attracting us," says Steve Wilson, executive vice president, commercial simulation and training.

The company has targeted nine regions in which it wants to establish "relatively small" training centres. "The majority will be built in partnership with existing or new customers," says Wilson.

CAE is not setting itself up in direct competition with the airlines and training centres which buy its simulators, he says. "We are hopeful that customers will see this as an opportunity," as the company is offering to share the risk with customers planning to expand their training operations. "They get another simulator at best value and also get to participate in a growth opportunity," he argues.

Source: Flight International