Canadian flight simulator specialist CAE is planning to take its virtual technology from the cockpit into the hangar, as its customers are demanding more complex maintenance training.

“We’re really trying to spend a good bit of time evolving the maintenance solutions from where it has been to where we think it needs to go.” says Jeff Roberts, group president of CAE Training and Services & Innovation. “It needs to become more practical or operational.”

Rudimentary programs such as changing tires, fixing brakes, adding oil and towing the airplane, need to be evolved to the next step, Roberts believes. “We need to train people in troubleshooting and diagnostic skills, because I think that is more an expectation of the customers, as they’ve told us. The maintenance tech has to go out today and get the fault to present itself. It becomes very much like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” he says.

New programs will use new ideas as instructors leverage traditional systems such as Integrated Procedures Trainers (IPT) and Virtual Maintenance Trainers (VMT). “We basically bring a virtual aircraft into the classroom to cover system operations and troubleshooting,” says Roberts. “These devices are also utilized to prepare clients for engine run and taxi sessions in the full flight simulator (FFS).”

 Jeff Roberts

Not all of their tools demand those elaborate machines, Roberts points out. “We also provide e-learning solutions to our students, be it for generic topics such as human factors or for aircraft-specific topics such as engine run-up theory and operations. In the latter case, we imbed aircraft simulation from the VMT into the courseware.”

Crews and pilots of a diverse clientele benefit from CAE simulators and training centers, including Dassault, Bombardier, Hawker Beechcraft and Gulfstream. Currently 35% of CAE simulators can mimic the cockpits of business aircraft, a figure that’s growing.

More manufacturers will partner with CAE in the near future, predicts Roberts, but perhaps not during the convention this week in Orlando. “It’s not necessarily that we’re closing new deals. There’s some of that, but it’s much more about spending time with everybody in the industry,” he says. “It’s kind of a confluence of everybody who’s interested - all of the stakeholders.”

Those stakeholders reach around the world. Including contracts in the defense and transport sectors, the Montreal-based company employs about 7,000 people at more than 75 sites and training centers in 20 countries. “Like with everybody else, the business aviation market is becoming more and more of an international-growing enterprise. We’ve got about 130 physical simulators deployed around the world, and something like 40-45 of those are business aviation simulators,” he says. Each site is run either solely by CAE or as a joint venture.

 CAE pilots

Much of the growth is coming from Emirates-CAE Flight Training in Dubai. “Our center in Dubai has been growing consistently since it opened five years ago. We started with two simulators in the free trade zone and we’re up to 10 simulators, with two to be installed in the second half of 2009,” says Roberts.

Three IPTs there help train nearly 20,000 crewmembers each year from 150 airlines and business jet operators. “The contribution for our Dubai training centre is likely to increase given the amount of aircraft deliveries in the region,” he continues, “Therefore we are looking at growth opportunities throughout the region both in the commercial as well as in the business aviation segment.”

Big changes are underway in China, Malaysia, Singapore and India. In Malaysia, CAE partnered with AirAsia to build a training center of excellence in Kuala Lumpur, CAE’s newly-selected Southeast Asian training hub.

In India, CAE’s Bangalore training center is in development, as is the country’s national flight academy, the Rajiv Gandhi National Flying Training Institute, which is owned by CAE and the Indian Government. CAE is also the managing partner of the Indian government’s flight training academy, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi.

At the Zhuhai Flight Training Center, CAE is part of the largest independent flight training facility in China for both pilot and technical training.

Adapting to local needs can be easy, Roberts says. “Our courseware can be swapped between languages at the audio level – recent example being between Mandarin and English. In terms of the courseware text, generally speaking our customers have requested English text and an option for an alternate audio language.”

For nearly a year Morristown, New Jersey has been home to the newest North American training center. Its inventory is gradually expanding from the present six simulator bays to a total of fifteen.

“Our growth across our entire network is always dependent on our customers’ needs and requirements, balanced with the strategy of our organization. We will grow our network as the market requires,” Roberts stresses.

Out of their many missions, business aviation training brings a unique set of rewards. “A lot of the airlines provide their own instructors, their own curriculum. The revenue that we derive, on average, from business aviation simulators is different from the average revenue of other sectors. That obviously allows us to generate more revenue per simulator in business aviation, opposed to the commercial sims, on average,” explains Roberts.

CAE is going to continue to expand business aviation training, Roberts assures, and he sees a larger role for helicopter training in the future as well. “That’s a very interesting and intriguing market for us and we’re looking at how we can do more there,” he says.

“I don’t know if we’ll have a special announcement to make at NBAA, but I wouldn’t be surprised going forward if you don’t see us take a more significant approach into that market.”


Source: Flight Daily News