We had the opportunity to visit CAE during Aerospace Week in Montreal and observe first hand their innovations in training, including flying their latest A350 full motion simulator. Since our last visit, there have been a number of changes at CAE.
The company, which began in 1947 as an aerospace engineering firm, became the world’s leader in manufacturing simulators for commercial and military aircraft. In 2000, the company began to expand into providing flight training services, and today more than 60% of the company’ s revenues come from training, and less than 40% from products.
In 2009, the company added health care simulation to its services menu, which today accounts for about 4% of the company’s $2.8 billion in annual revenues.
The core business of the company has shifted from the development of training products to not only manufacturing but utilizing those products to advance the art, and science of training. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the development of sophisticated simulators has taken a back seat. CAE is number 1 in the simulator market and continues to improve both the product itself and the production process in which they are built. Their latest simulators include advanced technologies that help differentiate CAE’s training processes and are improving the quality of training and the proficiency of pilots that emerge from that training.
Changing the way pilots are trained
Since entering the flight training market, CAE has taken over leadership in commercial airline training, and is number 2 in business aircraft training, but will be closing in on a leadership position after recently acquiring Bombardier‘s business jet training operations. CAE RISE is their latest offering, which changes the basis of a training curriculum. The acronym stands for Real Insight Standardized Evaluations.
Traditionally, flight training entailed repeated practice and checking of common maneuvers, with occasional inputs from line experience and the judgment of a check ride pilot. Today, training has moved to a competency-based framework through which competencies in abnormal situations can be objectively assessed utilizing data from training devices in performance evaluation.
The RISE process includes lesson planning and electronic grading (as the simulator knows how a student performed), electronic records, automatic and real-time insights, analysis of flight data, and a standardized debriefing. Some of the judgments of check pilots, some of whom graded quite differently, are now replaced with objective data from the simulator, leveling the playing field.
Airlines have the ability to integrate their own standards and procedures into the training curriculum to tailor it to their needs and gather data and trends on pilot performance over time to demonstrate their increased proficiency, a benefit when the time for promotion comes about. Both instructors and pilots like the process, as the fear of a “tough training Captain” or being unfairly evaluated, has disappeared. And of course, since all of us have strengths and weaknesses, curricula can be individualized so that pilots can work on their weakest areas on the simulator to improve their proficiency through individualized training, resulting in better pilots.
The Bottom Line
CAE’s market forecast indicates the need for 300,000 new airline pilots over the next decade, plus another 50,000 business jet pilots. The company stands poised to capitalize on the growth in both the training equipment and flight training markets resulting from traffic doubling every 15 years. The future looks bright for CAE and their innovations in training and training equipment.