TRU Simulation + Training has delivered of the first 737 Max full-flight simulator to Boeing's pilot training campus in Miami.
The market's first simulator for the re-engined narrowbody will be activated in the first quarter of 2017 to begin training pilots, keeping the device slightly ahead of the first revenue flight of the 737 Max 8 planned by the end of June.
The milestone delivery also comes at a key moment in the rise of TRU within the global simulation market. As the company competes for additional 737 Max simulator sales and continues developing the first simulator for the 777X, TRU executives are also planning to expand beyond the company's origins as a simulator supplier to Textron Aviation and Bell Helicopter, two affiliates of parent company Textron.
"When we made the commitment to the general aviation industry, people assumed perhaps we would be inward looking at the Textron products. From a training perspective, when you get into that business you really want to offer your end-customer a little more," says David Smith, vice-president of TRU's training centres.
Fleet operators in business aviation often operate multiple types of aircraft, making it attractive to offer simulation and training services for more than a single manufacturer.
"We are keenly looking at the opportunities out there for sort of underserved training markets where the incumbent is behaving as an incumbent and dominant player. Therefore, client services go down," Smith says, "and we can offer a really highly specialised product that our clients have not seen in years."
The company also is campaigning to sell the company's latest commercial simulator for the 737 Max to airline customers.
"We are in advanced talks with several major airliens about follow-on devices. That product is a real hot-seller for us in the next several years. We're excited about that," Smith says.
Textron formed TRU Simulation + Training in 2014, targeting a market set to grow at a compounded annual gross rate of 4.1% through 2021, rising from $6.18 billion to $7.54 billion in annual revenues, according to a forecast issued in September by QY Research.
Textron already owned a training business with the Textron Systems' AAI company. That company was merged with two acquired businesses — Montreal-based Mectronix and Lutz, Florida supplier Opinicus.
Pro Flight, a part 142 certificated pilot training center based in Carlsbad, California, was acquired later in 2014.
With Mectronix, in particular, TRU gained instant credibility in the commercial aviation market. Since 1996, the Canadian supplier had competed in the simulator business against home-town rival CAE, but hit financial hard times that required a restructuring in 2013 and ultimately the sale to Textron a year later.
With Textron's financial resources, the former Mectronix was quickly back in business as TRU's simulator manufacturer. In the heavily competitive simulator market, TRU competes for sales with several established rivals, including CAE, FlightSafety International, Lockheed Martin and L-3 Communications, and new start-up companies such as Venyo.
"The thing that distinguished TRU from our competitors," Smith says, "[is] we are very aggressive at reaching the market quickly. We have a greater commitment of resources on engineering. Our team, I know, really committed early. We worked hard to make schedule and meet end objectives."
Another advantage TRU claims is the affordable realism of its training devices. Technology in the simulator market is usually divided into two camps. Some companies make simulators with exactly the same avionics systems found in cockpits, along with the flight-rated wiring and processors. This delivers the most realistic experience, but comes at the highest price. Alternatively, other simulators are designed to replicate the feel of an aircraft cockpit, but not with flight-rated components. TRU has chosen to take a hybrid approach, combining flight-rated hardware with replicated back-end components, such as wiring and processors.
"We build some of the most realistic training devices. They are just more realistic on the handling and the flight qualities as well, and the operator station is configured for maximum training effect," Smith says.