Dragonair has taken a further step towards independence from Cathay Pacific Airways with the purchase of an Airbus A320 full flight simulator from CAE Electronics.

The Hong Kong-based airline, which has also taken an option with CAE for an Airbus A330 simulator, will open its own flight crew training centre at Hong Kong's new Chek Lap Kok Airport by the end of 1999, when the level-D A320 simulator is scheduled for delivery.

The two-bay facility will form part of a new HK$1.4 billion ($180 million) joint headquarters complex under construction for Dragonair and its majority owner China National Aviation (CNAC), and will be separate from Cathay's new 14-bay simulator centre.

The Chinese-owned carrier is setting up its own cadet pilot training scheme and plans to induct an initial batch of four to six trainees in early 1999, while the new centre will be open to third-party training. CNAC's two other subsidiary carriers, Air Macau and Zhejiang Airlines of China, are also thought likely to make use of the simulator. The three carriers will have a combined fleet of 22 A320/A321s by 2000, together with six Dragonair-operated A330-300s.

Airbus has already opened its joint-venture simulator centre in Beijing, while China Southern has ordered its own system and Asia-Pacific Training & Simulation has an operation in Singapore.

"We're getting great encouragement from Airbus - they're inviting us to enter into a network with them," says Dragonair general manager Felix Hart.

The carrier's $15 million investment in the centre will include a cabin crew emergency evacuation trainer and ground crew computer-based training devices.

Source: Flight International