This year’s Paris air show will see Lockheed Martin (LM) adding its brand name to the increasingly competitive market for simulators serving civil airline crew training needs.

Since LM acquired Sassenheim, Netherlands-based Sim Industries in 2012, the latter’s integration into the LM brand as Lockheed Martin Commercial Flight Training (LMCFT) has now been completed, and the parent company has begun signalling its product differentiators to make its market presence felt.

Meanwhile, LMCFT is up against not only the established market heavyweights such as CAE and FlightSafety International, but also relatively recent entrants with similarly muscular brand names including Rockwell Collins (which acquired Evans & Sutherland), L3 Communications (which took over Thales’ civil simulation interests and now UK-based trainer CTC Aviation), and Textron (Mechtronix and Opinicus relaunched as Tru Simulation and Training). Those simulation specialists with a Paris presence this year, as well as Lockheed Martin, include CAE, Rockwell Collins, L3 Communications and Textron.

LMCFT business development and strategy director Neil Tomlin says the Sim Industries acquisition demonstrates LM’s intention to become “a truly global company, not a US company doing business internationally”. The Sassenheim base has been purpose-built since the LM acquisition, and is not far from the original Sim Industries facility.

Tomlin admits there is not room for all the players in the simulation market today, particularly at the top end – full flight simulation – despite airline expansion, and suggests that those who survive will be the companies that can meet highly specific individual customer training needs and provide complete product support.

He also points out that the traditional 90/10 military/civil customer division at LM is going to change progressively in the direction of an increased civil proportion. LMCFT itself is part of the company’s Training and Logistics Services division, which also encompasses military training, F35 “sustainment”, test systems and global training services.

Sim Industries started out serving customers who wanted Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 full flight simulators, but with low initial and maintenance costs and very low downtime. It achieved this by virtue of using commercial off-the-shelf components wherever possible, and wooed customers with a high degree of tailored capability to the operator’s specification.Today, LMCFT also produces flight simulation and training devices (FSTD) for the Boeing 767, 777, 787 and Airbus A330/340, including full motion, fixed base, and touch-screen flat panel trainers.

Customers are becoming more demanding, says LMCFT. They want a simulator that trains pilots to fly better, not just a sophisticated procedures and systems trainer. They are acutely aware of the prevalence of loss of control in flight as today’s primary cause of fatal accidents, and that this is testimony to the fact that existing training has been lacking. They want simulation fidelity all the way to full stall and other encounters with the edges of the flight envelope, plus the most effective possible training for upset recovery. LMCFT says it works with every customer to deliver the combination of hardware and software that meets their training priorities, and this seems to be a winner.

Using COTS components is far from unique to LMCFTA, but a particular product differentiator is the motion system for the Level D FFS devices: both the hardware and software are new. The motion system drive, manufactured by Moog in the UK, is electro-pneumatic. The engineers point out that subtle manoeuvring motion is mostly provided directly by an electrically driven rack-and-pinion six-axis system, but more emphatic manoeuvres involve a boost from pneumatic pumps backed up by a capacious pneumatic accumulator. Most other manufacturers have moved from using the traditional electro-hydraulic motion systems – now out of favour – to pure electrical drive.

LM was clearly drawn to Sim Industries’ freshness, compact size and its innovative energy, to which the parent company could add its massive resources and marketing clout. It seems that, in the simulator sector today, it is not only the product that matters, but how it is delivered. Greg Darrow, senior advisor on sales and marketing for Pan Am International Flight Academy, said recently it favours Textron-owned newcomer Tru Simulation and Training – a joint venture between Mechtronix, Opinicus and AAI – because unlike suppliers such as CAE and FlightSafety, “it does not compete with Pan Am on third party training provision”.

Source: Flight Daily News