The Sim Ops team has been getting ready for our presence at this autumn's round of industry conferences. Talking to some of our customers we often hear that they would like to go, but have trouble justifying costs to their superiors. So we thought we would take a look at why we think some of the FSTD-related conferences are a good thing.
Which Conferences are we talking about?
For the commercial simulation industry, there are two principal organisations whose conferences we are attending. Those from;
Halldale are the organisers of the World Aviation Training Summit (WATS), Asia Pacific Airline Training Symposium (APATS) and European Airline Training Symposium (EATS). These events are primarily aimed at training centre managers, Heads of Training and Accountable Managers with a focus on training innovation, trends and technology. The TDMs, large and small, will usually always be there along with the aircraft OEMS and training providers.
APATS is being held on 29th and 30th August in Singapore this year and focuses naturally on the Asia Pacific region.
EATS is being held on 8th and 9th November in Cascais, Portugal this year with many European FTOs and ATOs planning to attend.
(Halldale are the publishers of the Commercial Aviation Training (CAT) magazine for the commercial airline training sector, this has become one of the main industry news sources, it’s unusual that you don’t see a copy when you visit a training centre.)
Run by the SAE ITC group the FSEMC, despite the title, is much more than a conference; also as suggested by the title this one is more aimed at FSTD operational issues, qualification and maintenance or technical aspects. Hence, more aimed at the maintenance and compliance managers. Various working groups are coordinated through the FSEMC that through attendee participation have led to some of the well-renowned ARINC standards related to FSTD maintenance, operation and qualification that we have discussed in previous blogs (see Standing on the Shoulders of Giants and A hommage to Arinc 610).
FSEMC is being held between October 23 and October 26 this year (2023) in Utrecht, the Netherlands. SIM OPS will be presenting a paper at the start of the regulatory-themed session on the future of recurrent evaluations with Mark Dransfield.
What format do they take?
All of them centre around a main conference room with an attached trade show (supplier booths) to one extent or another, the Halldale conferences being significantly larger in this respect. The main conference being a mixture of presentations and panel discussions, in the case of Halldale there are plenary sessions then separate streams for flight training (airline and regional) and cabin training; whilst FSEMC also has themed sessions to discuss pre-submitted questions.
However, like all the best conferences, a lot of the most useful discussions take place during coffee and lunch breaks. It is hard to put a value on "You should talk to Joe about that, he's over there, I'll introduce you".
As with many industries, and aviation in general, most company representatives at these conferences not only want to see their own companies succeed but also have an altruistic view. When our industry comes together there is an overwhelming spirit of improvement for all flight safety matters and operations.
Take the FSEMC for example, you will regularly see maintenance managers from airlines/training centres that are bitter commercial rivals freely discussing how to improve and better maintain their devices; we even know of situations where commercial rivals have lent each other spares.
Likewise at the Halldale events it is not uncommon to see heads of training for competing airlines to not only discuss how to improve training standards but for airlines to openly present improvements to the whole audience.
Setting the agenda
It is when the industry gathers together that we can start the debates that go on to shape the future. Take for example Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) that covers both training and technology. Before we got to the situation today whereby the training is defined and mandated along with the required technologies the subject was thoroughly debated at conferences. This not only allowed all participants to put their case but, more importantly, allowed the industry to prepare (and yes we know there are still people who disagree with the solution).
That is one example, we can think of many; MPL, Lcos projectors, electric motion, SATCE, use of FTDs… the list is endless.
Apart from operators who else goes?
Just about the whole industry to be honest. Certainly the training device manufacturers (TDMs) who not only get valuable feedback on their product offerings but also get to meet a large proportion of their customers in a short space of time.
For independent suppliers, like Sim Ops, having the chance to showcase their products and services to so many people is unmissable.
You will also see representatives from the major aircraft manufacturers at these conferences wearing multiple hats in some cases, but that's a whole blog in itself.
Then there are the regulators. We have blogged in the past that the regulators are primarily focused on helping the industry and at these conferences many of them put themselves up front to discuss current and forthcoming regulations. These sessions alone are usually worth going to these conferences for. And don't forget the regulators' participation in FSEMC led to the Simulator Technical Issues Group STIG in the US and EFTEG working groups in EASA which gives direct access to industry to the two main regulators.
Royal Aeronautical Society (RAes) Conferences
Of course there are other conferences and one that deserves particular mention is the RAeS Flight Simulation Group conferences based in London. They have an active flight simulation group with a more academic and research-based outlook that has given rise to industry-shaping work including the indispensable QTG handbook and the International Working Group that lead to the publication of ICAO 9625 Manual of Criteria for the Qualification of FSTDs. RAeS FSG conferences have been off the agenda since COVID but it is hoped they will return very soon.
OK, so to answer my boss, why should the company pay for me to attend?
Well for one thing, for the price of attending you can meet multiple suppliers in one visit; saving money on hotels and travel. You can form your own peer-to-peer network to help you with shared interests, be prepared for upcoming changes and actually participate in shaping them. If you're looking for updates you can in one day see all the current offerings in one place. It really comes down to, as an organisation, do you want to be involved in the future, take advantage of others' knowledge or be a consumer of others' agendas. And of course it gives you a chance to drop by the Sim Ops stand and say hi.
Oh, and there may be the occasional post-conference beer or two (?) drunk at the conference venue bar where even more valuable conversations have been known to take place.
How can Sim Ops help?
Between the partners at Sim Ops we have attended more conferences than we care to remember (or more precisely can remember). Come see us. We will have booths at APATS and EATS this year, we'll point you in the right direction.