FlightSafety consolidates its expertise at Le Bourget
Based in France since 1976, the FlightSafety training center is a key player in the country’s business aviation sector. To make to most of its 50-year anniversary, the Paris-based entity has focused on the development of a few of its branches which are not as well known in the industry.
We take a closer look at this unique facility in Europe.
At the Paris-Le Bourget airport, the FlightSafety facility is seen as a monument. Located directly in front of Dassault Falcon Service, it remains an essential site at the Parisian platform. The facility arose, with the aircraft manufacturer, as a part of French business aviation history.
Founded in 1976 with the commercial launch of the Falcon 20, the Falcon instruction center was started as a joint venture between FlightSafety International and Dassault Falcon Service. The training center originally based in Vélizy, close to Dassault’s former offices, moved to the Le Bourget platform in 1986. At the end of the 1990s, the two entities jointly agreed to rename the center the Falcon Training Center (FTC). In addition to a new name, this heralded a new era for the center to focus more on the international market.
Dassault and Embraer
Since this time, the entity has continued to grow, developing in order to meet, in particular, training needs due to the expansion of the Falcon family. This entity stemming from a joint-venture between FlightSafety and an aircraft manufacturer remains unique in the history of the American company founded at the beginning of the 1950s by A.L. Ueltschi.
With the opening in April of a new Falcon 2000LXS simulator and an upcoming Falcon 8X simulator, the Parisian center will cover the entire line of Dassault’s business aircraft. Accordingly, over the coming years the center shall remain the only real global reference in this field.
But its status is not limited to just the Falcon range. FlightSafety’s Paris site is also dedicated to another aircraft manufacturer:
Embraer. Four simulators grouping together the Legacy 600/650, Embraer 170, Embraer 190 and Embraer 120 are also available for pilot training. According to Yannick Kerriou, director of FlightSafety-FTC Le Bourget, the Parisian facilities for the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer “meet the regional need for these types of aircraft, particularly for the French commercial airline HOP. And over time we have become the leader in Embraer 170-190 training throughout Europe.” As for why the center maintains a simulator for the Embraer 120, a commercial aircraft which flew for the first time in 1983, the director of the platform stated that it “is still frequently used by operators primarily from Africa, as well as Eastern Europe”. He added, “Keeping old modules makes good business sense. And one of FlightSafety’s values is to remain loyal to our customers, occasionally beyond just the commercial aspect”.
In total, the site has over 140 people, including around 60 instructors and 20 maintenance technicians for the simulators. While the corporate culture is heavily rooted in the American mindset, the philosophy of the facility still remains very European. The director of the Parisian site highlights this specific feature, and especially the multiculturalism of the company with over 30 nationalities which continues to grow on a daily basis.
Eighty “students” on average are present every week in the center spanning a multitude of nationalities. In addition to its geographic location, the Parisian site receives all types of clientele, as Yannick Kerriou explained: “FlightSafety leaves it up to the client to choose their training center”. For Falcon training, FlightSafety has two main platforms: New York and Paris. However, the Paris center remains the most requested particularly for its expertise in Dassault aircraft, as well as for its proximity to Dassault Falcon Service.
Furthermore, the complex is the only center in the world to issue EASA type qualification for the Falcon 7X, as explained by Yannick Kerriou: “We benefit from having the Falcon and of course Dassault’s support in sending crews. Our clients come from across the world. We are particularly requested by customers from the Middle East and Africa, as well as from Eastern Europe”.
Maintenance and crew training: a lesser-known aspect
While FlightSafety-FTC is primarily known for pilot training (initial and maintaining of proficiency), the center also conducts type training for B1 (mechanical) and B2 (avionics) technicians. For these programs, FlightSafety uses interactive digital tools with 3D visualization. Training is conducted over an average period of six weeks, both on Falcon and Embraer models represented on site.
Training is also held on Pratt & Whitney engines during specific workshops. Besides maintenance, FlightSafety FTC also conducts crew training, in particular intended for business aviation.
Although there is no regulatory obligation in Europe for business aviation, the entity prepares the training program in accordance with the existing FAA American standards. A standard which is highly appreciated especially for crews working in the Middle East or in countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). “More and more operators are asking us for certified type training, particularly to bridge the gap which exists between business and commercial aviation. We are also working with the EASA to have these crew training courses validated at European level, including to meet the requirements stipulated by a growing number of operators in Europe. We have therefore used the training program stipulated by the FAA as a basis and are implementing it in line with the specific requirements of European operators”, stated Yannick Kerriou.
The future of the site
Within the American company, the Paris-based center still remains the only one to conduct pilot, mechanical and cabin crew training. As with pilot training and its experience in the field, particularly in the regional aviation sector developed over the past 30 years, the entity led by Yannick Kerriou also hopes to become the leading player in the cabin training sector. “We are striving to develop the commercial cabin crew training activity. To this end, we are hoping to bolster our development in this market with a major commercial operator. There is also a burgeoning market for the training of private personnel that we wish to develop under a FlightSafety label”.
However, the director is not satisfied relying on the current division focused on pilot skills training. Once again, Yannick Kerriou plans on developing this unit of the company’s
recognized expertise: “The purpose of the center is to provide type training to qualified pilots and our key market is based on business aviation, as well as regional aviation. We therefore hope to consolidate our relationships with longstanding customers namely Embraer and, of course, Dassault. However, we also have the capacity to expand with three new simulators in our current facilities. We are therefore examining opportunities which may result in new training courses and the installation of new modules”. The site is now one of the world’s largest for FlightSafety with over 12 training units.
However, aside from the possible installation of three new simulators, the director of the French branch stated “to be looking at expansion possibilities for the site in cooperation with the Paris Airport authority.”
A thought that arises, according to the director, from “a phase of relative savings until last year and which allowed us to now look into new investments for the FTC site. These investments could allow us to respond even more effectively to demand. Because despite the relatively codified market, the training sector has seen an increase over recent years in new players and therefore new offers to which we have to respond in order to stay on top of the market”.
by Frédéric Vergnères – © Frédéric Vergnères