Updated: May 18
Buying a Flight Simulator Training Device (FSTD) is a major investment and needs to be carefully managed. Selection of a Training Device Manufacturer (TDM) and the configuration of the device you require can be a complicated process. This article 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?
Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ)?
These terms are often used interchangeably but they are actually very different.
RFP – this is where you want to solicit differing solutions to your requirements so that you can evaluate the responses to see which best meets your needs.
RFQ – this is where you know exactly what you want the suppliers to quote on and basically you just want prices and schedules with terms and conditions.
We have seen many differing approaches from a simple one-page request through to very detailed requirements detailing almost every element of the device (a true RFQ). Some of this will depend on whether or not you have existing devices and if your FSTD building already exists. For example, if you have a building with a fixed height that is limited this will need to be stated (the simulator TDMs do have options on motion systems for this). Our advice though is always not to over specify, let the TDMs do what they do best and offer solutions.
One big choice is which visual system Image Generator (IG) to specify. Most TDMs are able to offer a range of options but you may wish to hold a separate competition for this, run in parallel to the device competition. Certainly, for existing operators it makes sense to look at an IG deal across the whole fleet of devices where economies of scale and database commonality can be advantageous. But it does mean running two competitions and dealing with two suppliers, there are a lot of advantages in having a single contractor.
Don’t drive up the cost unnecessarily
When writing the RFP it is very easy to put in requirements for items that the TDMs will comply with, but put up the procurement cost. Everything has to be paid for at some time by somebody. A few examples we have seen recently are:
Long Warranty periods – yes, the TDMs will probably comply but they will normally add around 1% per year of warranty onto the purchase price. This is more than you can reasonably expect to spend on parts.
Access to excessive visual databases – again this will be factored into the price, we recently saw an RFP asking for 300 airports; not only was there a high value to obtain these but the nightmare comes in keeping them up-to-date in accordance with the real world and regulatory requirements.
Punitive reliability penalties – there has been a trend toward these requirements but in reality they are not very helpful. The device you buy will be an existing design and will be what it is. Remember if the device is not training the operator has the imperative to bring it back into training.
The malfunction inflation – we still see RFPs with requirements for numerous, to be defined, malfunctions; all training departments have their own courses but a TDM that has produced, say 50 A320 FFS, will have a library that should suffice.
These are just some examples. Before adding requirements, think carefully that someone’s “nice to have” can drive up the cost unnecessarily.
The TDM that you want?
One of the biggest errors we often see are RFPs written to unconsciously favour one TDM. This normally occurs when the RFP is written by someone with extensive experience of one TDM’s product. For example, specifying a particular feature or technology solution that is proprietary to a single TDM. This will severely limit the responses you receive and drive up the costs for the other TDMs, who may have perfectly good solutions of their own.
Be clear on how to respond
Include a list of the documents you require to form part of the TDM’s submissions. This should include all the data required to make your down selection including not only commercial but also technical data. Also remember to include a timetable of events and indicating the selection process; for example:
RFP Issued – Week 1
Questions cut-off – Week 2
Responses Returned – Week 3
Down Selection to 2 bidders – Week 4
TDM demonstrations/visits – Week - 6
Notification of successful bidder -Week 7
We would always advise to give the TDMs as much advance notice of an upcoming competition as possible, this is particularly true if you will be requesting assistance with financing the project ( a subject we will cover in a future article).
One of the key documents you need to ask for is the compliance matrix, this should go on to form part of any subsequent contract. Ensure each of the requirements is clear, a single item and easily measurable for compliance during acceptance. Best practice on this is to provide your own matrix as a spreadsheet with locked/defined cells that, for example, do not allow caveats on compliant items (they are either compliant or they are not).
Tell the bidders the selection criteria
For a TDM responding to an RFP can be a time consuming and expensive activity. One of their biggest problems is in trying to assess which of the options and features requested are important to the customer and which were included as “nice to haves”. As in the compliance matrix, where requirements should be weighted, help the TDMs help you. Be clear on what is or is not important and how the final selection will be made.
Make sure you get quotes you can compare?
However well written your RFP the probability is that the quotations you receive will all come back in different formats with differing options quoted. This will make comparisons very difficult. This can be easily avoided by providing your own pricing matrix as part of your RFP.
How Do I get started
The first decisions to take are going to be where on the spectrum from RFP to RFQ do you want to be, do you already know exactly what you need to achieve your training? Appoint a selection panel and start gathering your requirements. The chances are that you already have instructors using devices, talk with them to help for your requirements.
How can Sim Ops Help?
At Sim Ops we have the ability to help you in the whole procurement process from writing the RFP, assessing the responses through to the final selection. We start the process by a detailed questionnaire followed by an intense on-site workshop with your prime stakeholders. Once the inputs are received we can act as an independent assessment and scoring partner. Read more about our FSTD assessment and appraisal services.