Summer last year we published a, deliberately, provocative blog pondering on the market prospects for new Full Flight Simulators (FFS) and the possible transfer of increasing amounts of training to the fixed base Flight Training Devices (FTD). We thought now that as the autumn conference season has run its course that it would be interesting to take another look at this subject.
FFS Supply and Demand
As always it is hard to get hold of firm numbers of FSTDs sold over the last year, that said judging by the lack of press releases for FFSs sold it has been a horrible year for all the Training Device Manufactures (TDM). Of course that is not particularly surprising considering the circumstances and with the pandemic still giving us surprises it would be a brave person to predict when air travel (and therefore training demand) will return to pre pandemic levels. But when you compare that to activity in the FTD market the story is somewhat different, we have seen multiple press releases for both type specific and generic devices with even the more established and well known TDMs touting their new FTD products to all that will listen. Certainly at Sim Ops we have seen a number of recent projects related to these FTDs both on installations and other services.
In addition the whole industry seems to be talking more and more about how we might also use and qualify virtual or mixed reality in such FTD devices. Since we looked at this last time EASA has indeed already qualified the first Virtual Reality (VR) devices with partial credits towards type rating training, albeit for rotary wing… but there are more coming down the pipeline. While FTDs and even VR/Mixed Reality (MR) will never fully replace the FFS (we may yet live to regret that prediction) the interest and diversification in the types of FSTD platforms is evident. Add to that the emergence of the new eVTOL air taxi market demand for potentially huge numbers of VR/MR FTDs and there are interesting times ahead.
As discussed in our last blog The Times are for Moving we have, though, observed an unexpected big increase in the number of devices being moved. Looking back we should really have foreseen this, with aircraft fleets changing and aircraft bases changing it was obvious that the training devices needed to support them would also move (of course some of our ex colleagues and friends did indeed predict this and prepare for it, you know who you are). But this is liable to be just a bubble.
The release for public consultation of EASA NPA 2020-15 focusing on adopting the FSTD Capability Signature (FCS) to enable more potential credits for lower level devices in type rating training duly happened, a little delayed but that was always to be expected. The consultation phase itself has arguably followed a predictable pattern with some respondents voicing their concerns to the proposed changes, the majority however are reportedly in favour of the approach even if the application of it to existing devices has left some food for thought for EASA. Indeed it seems that the intent is also to now apply the same principles to rotary wing FSTDs for use in type rating training and establish a new CS-FSTD for both fixed and rotary wing as announced by EASA at the recent rotorcraft safety conference. The regulatory environment is moving forward in ICAO as well with the Personnel Licensing Training Panel, one of whose subgroups will allegedly similarly update ICAO doc9625 into a single volume covering rotary and fixed wing FSTDs for all types of training it seems.
One thing we did get correct, sadly, was that all the TDMs would not survive. For the partners at Sim Ops the ending of commercial FSTD production and sale of Commercial activities of TRU Montreal was sad to witness. However we did fear it would be worse and wish the remaining companies well, our industry has benefited from the innovations brought by new entrants and we do need, and indeed welcome, competition.
So, did we see the burial of the FFS, of course not. The six axis FFS remains a tool that customers want and there are training tasks that are best completed on a FFS when it comes to training to proficiency. However we think we see the tide turning; certainly EASA releasing NPA 2020-15 has reignited a healthy debate and CBTA and EBT evidence based training is gaining traction. The longer the pandemic drags on the more the rationale for FTDs will gain traction… more training , more often, more locally. With money tight and a surplus of FFS availability we think operators will be tempted to spend their money on FTDs and just source the FFS time they have to have.
How can Sim Ops help?
Whatever your project we at Sim Ops can help you find your way through the current FSTD regulations, we are also uniquely positioned to help you understand and take advantage of the emerging changes. Feel free to talk to us and we can see how we can make your project a reality.