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Designing your training facility

Updated: May 13, 2021


Key to any new Flight Training venture is the facility where the Flight Simulation Training Devices (FSTDs) will be installed. This is a major undertaking and it is essential to get it right the first time, once built it is very difficult to correct errors in planning. This paper introduces you to the topic, what needs to be taken into consideration and some practical steps to be taken.

What are the issues that need to be considered?

Training Centre Vs Simulator building.

It may seem an obvious point, often neglected, but the very first question to ask yourself is what exactly am I going to use the building for? In particular, are you just going to use the building to house your FSTDs or are you going to conduct training, other than the FSTD sessions, in the building as well?

If the building is just going to house the FSTDs the building can be fairly modest and the information you receive from your TDM (Training Device Manufacturer) will be almost enough to provide to an architect to start work.

However, if the intention is to undertake training, such as type ratings, at the facility the complexity of the undertaking becomes much greater and the number of stakeholders increases with it. Not only housing of the FSTDs but classrooms and lower level FSTDs may now also need to be accommodated as well as perhaps facilities and offices for instructors and mandatory post holders.

Who is going to train in the facility?

Depending upon whether or not third party training is anticipated will drive the need for security and hospitality facilities. If only your own companies’ employees are going to be trained and the facility is located in a secure compound the only security required may be just a badge reader at the entry. In comparison though if it is envisioned to carry out third party customers full receptionist services and waiting areas will be needed.

One-star or five-star facility?

Think about hotels; there are hotels that you book on the internet then, on arrival you check in by inserting your credit card into a machine to obtain your key. The rooms themselves have factory produced plastic bathrooms, catering is a vending machine. There are also hotels that on arriving a porter takes your bags, and have receptionists, club lounges etc. Both of these though fulfill the same function.

With training centres, it is the same. One of the early decisions is to decide where you want to be on that spectrum. Show case (five star) training centre, minimalist simulator buildings only, or somewhere in between.

Future Expansion

Most prospective training centre ventures will start with one or possibly two FSTDs (FFS and/or FTD) but the majority have the plan for future expansion. This can take two forms; an initial capability for training your own staff (in the context of an airline) with a plan to sell excess time in the future. Or an initial setup to train one aircraft type with plans to add other types in the future.

In either of these cases there is a need to ensure the building either has space on the initial build or room to be expanded.

Where are the FSTDs coming from?

Although most modern FSTDs are fairly similar in size and facilities requirements there are differences and they can be significant. Unless you are fully committed to procuring all your devices from a single supplier it is wise to ensure the facility is adaptable for devices from other suppliers. That said the situation is very different if used FFS devices are being considered, in particular if the older device has hydraulic motion or controls, in this case specialist hydraulic power unit rooms will be needed adding to the complexity of the project.

Flow through the building and layout

An important consideration is the experience of trainees and instructors through the building. A layout where they have to repeatedly go up and down stairways between waiting areas, simulators, briefing rooms and toilets will soon attract complaints. It is also necessary to think about zoning in the building, for example you don’t want customers walking through an open plan office where their accounts are managed.

Consideration should also be made for how the FSTD will be delivered and installed into the building. Suitable external doors need to be sized and positioned to facilitate the delivery of major assemblies to arrive not only into the building but to the actual floor location.

New building or adaptation?

So far we have assumed a new build facility but this is not the only option. There are lots of examples where existing buildings have been used. There are two major hurdles to this approach. The first is finding a building with suitable height space for a FFS, most warehouses are only around six metres clearance and for most FFS approximately ten metres height is required. There are examples where the FFS has been placed in a pit in order to obtain the required clearance, but it is not always easy to achieve. The second problem is in ensuring the simulator reinforced pad is able to be installed; a FFS needs to be mounted on an isolated base that acts as an anchor and counterweight to the FFS in motion.

If installing in an aircraft hangar, there is normally a need to build a building inside the hangar. These tend to be noisy, not well insulated and many have birds as sitting tenants, not conducive to FSTD operations.

How Do I get started

First task with all the stakeholders is to agree your scope for the project, and answer the following questions.

  • One star, five star or something in between?

  • What training are we going to do?

  • What devices, FFS only or lower level devices as well? How many?

  • Training for ourselves or selling to third parties?

  • Do we plan 24/7/365 operations ?

  • Dry or wet lease third-party training?

  • How many briefing/debriefing rooms and with what capability?

  • How many staff will be there? Don't forget maintenance staff requirements!

  • What security is needed?

  • What catering facilities are needed?

  • What future plans do we have?

Obtain from your proposed TDM(s) their facility requirements; you should also be able to obtain a CAD model from the TDM which will be invaluable to the architect.

Produce a draft schedule of accommodation. This is one of the key documents; this is a list of all the rooms in the facility, their function, the rough size, how many people in the room, furniture needed and any special equipment needed.

Go visit other existing training centres and see what they have achieved.

How can Sim Ops Help?

Between the principals in Sim Ops we have been involved in multiple simulator building and training centre projects; during these we have seen many examples of good (and bad) practice. We can guide you through the process of determining what accommodations are required and preparing an initial layout ready for the architect to get started. We can then work with your architect to ensure you get the building you need. Read more about our Complete centre operation service.

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1 Comment

Kathryn Yee
Kathryn Yee
Jun 17, 2020

Great post! Once again Sim Ops provides some very useful tips, this time about designing a training facility. Off to share!

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