Max Kingsley-Jones/LUTON

FlightSafety Boeing Training International (FSBTI) has rethought its European strategy, deciding to set up small training centres across Europe rather than one major hub near London Heathrow. The change of plan comes as the company initiates the development of a £44 million ($73.5 million) training centre, which will also function as its European headquarters, at London Luton Airport.

A year ago, FSBTI said it would build its European training hub at London Heathrow or Gatwick as part of a global network of large-scale training centres (Flight International, 12-18 August 1998). Late last year, a site near Heathrow was tentatively selected as plans for the new training hub, with up to 10 flight simulators, were finalised.

"Then we realised there was a market niche for a series of smaller centres closer to customers," says FSBTI managing director flight training Pat Gaines. He concedes that the move to Luton was partly prompted by concerns over the increasing number of training centres near Heathrow and Gatwick.

As part of the revamped strategy, FSTBI recently entered into a strategic alliance with Gatwick-based Quadrant Systems when it purchased the training company's three simulators (an Airbus A300B4 and a Boeing 727-200 and 747-200/300). A fourth simulator, a 737-700/800, will be operational by the end of the year. Gaines says FSBTI is looking to set up regional hubs in Germany and Spain. He expects plans to progress over the next six months.

Training at the new Luton centre is to begin next September. It will have four simulator bays (737-300, 737-800, 757 and possibly an Airbus type), which can be increased to six, and will eventually handle 3,000 pilots a year. Initial customers will include locally based carriers Britannia, easyJet and Monarch, the latter providing its 757 simulator for the new centre, which it recently sold to FSBTI.

Source: Flight International