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Delivering The Real Deal

In a business where simulating reality as accurately as possible is the name of the game, Montreal-based CAE is proving to be the real deal.


October 12, 2012
By Brian Dunn

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In a business where simulating reality as accurately as possible is the name of the game, Montreal-based CAE is proving to be the real deal.

CAE-S76__25  
A commitment to safety is critical at CAE. Helicopters have an accident rate of 8.5 per 100,000 hours flown versus 0.15 for fixed-wing aircraft. Fifty-seven per cent of helicopter accidents are due to pilot error and 23 per cent occur during training.
(Photo courtesy of CAE)


 

With more than 124 helicopter full-flight simulators (FFS) delivered to 10 OEMs as of mid-July, CAE is the clear leader in this category according to the firm with an estimated 36 per cent market share, followed by L3-Link with 16 per cent and Thales with 14 per cent.

It has the broadest range of helicopter training devices and simulators with seven models, from the basic CAE Simfinity e-Learning desktop device up to the CAE 7000 Series full-flight simulators.

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“We work with practically all of the major OEMs such as Eurocopter, EHI, AgustaWestland, Bell, Sikorsky, Boeing and Kaman,” said Philippe Perey, CAE’s senior director, global military business development and sales, rotary wing. “CAE also trains all the pilots and maintenance crew at CHC and we’re trying to break into the Russian market.”

CAE’s new low-cost 3000 Series FFS was designed specifically for the helicopter market at a lower price point than the Series 5000 or 7000. “The concept was to design a cockpit tailored more for the civil market compared to the Series 7000, which is more suited for big military helicopters,” explained Marc St-Hilaire, vice-president, technology and innovation.

It is aimed at the mission training market and is supported by several scenarios, including offshore oil and gas operations, emergency medical services operations, police crime scene pursuit and long-line search and rescue missions at sea among others. Depending on the level of experience and training requirements, pilots can face different levels of difficulty, including variations in weather, lighting and landing areas.

“You can build up to three levels of difficulty depending on a pilot’s skill,” explained Perey. “Each level builds confidence and expertise. The highest level 3 would be an event such as a crane moving while trying to land on an oil rig.”

The Tropos-6000 visual system in the 3000 is bright and very realistic with accompanying engine noise adjustable for loudness. And all scenarios are lifelike with dynamic movement of personnel and equipment. In the oil and gas platform for example, wind and wave strength can be adjusted in addition to landing in a rain or fog environment. And the cranes on the platform can move to pose an even bigger challenge for pilots attempting to land.

In the emergency medical evacuation scenario, people on the ground can be seen running away as the helicopter attempts to land and then rushing forward once it has landed, posing threats to their safety.

The is also an extended military offering with a larger dome for medium to heavy helicopters, additional field of view for military needs of up to 220 x 95 degrees, the same roll-on roll-off cockpit capability for mixed fleets, enhanced tactical environment for military needs and additional weapons and sensors simulation for combat-oriented platforms.

The military platforms offer virtual cockpit models, helicopter blade element models, air turbulence models around ships and wind models over mountain peaks, among other features. Many of the models also represent the environment around the aircraft, including the Maritime 3D ocean models where the ocean and ships move realistically, radar models and complex weather models that change progressively.


Creating the Right Model

There is pressure on the helicopter industry to improve its safety record, Perey explained during an industry trends presentation at CAE’s Montreal headquarters this summer. Helicopters have an accident rate of 8.5 per 100,000 hours flown versus 0.15 for fixed-wing aircraft, he said. Fifty-seven per cent of helicopter accidents are due to pilot error and 23 per cent occur during training.

CAE_HeliTropos6_C2  
With the Tropos-6000 visual system in the 3000 all scenarios are lifelike and feature dynamic movement of personnel and equipment. In the oil and gas platform, wind and wave strength can be adjusted in addition to landing in a rain or fog environment.
(Photo courtesy of CAE)


 

To reduce those numbers, several initiatives have been launched, including the International Helicopters Safety Team that wants to reduce accidents by 80 per cent by 2016. There’s also ICAO’s H-International Working Group to redefine standards for helicopter synthetic training and insurance underwriters that have a rebate program applied towards approved recurrent training. And there are industry groups where users are required to go through synthetic type training and recurrent training for contracted helicopter operators. CAE currently has two employees participating in the international working group, namely Stephane Clement, director of safety and regulatory affairs, civil simulation products and Barry Silver, helicopter pilot and FSTD Tester.

The industry favours more simulation training than is currently being done, according to a CAE survey, with affordability being one of the biggest barriers to more training. Hence the introduction of the CAE 3000 Series with their detailed and dynamic scenes and advanced training capabilities. There are even special situation training capabilities such as obscured visibility and brownouts from sandstorms.

In addition, CAE has 17 existing or planned civil and military helicopter training centres around the world. Existing ones include Vancouver, Phoenix, Morristown, N.J., Mexico City, Dubai and six in Europe. Planned centres include Sao Paolo, Kuala Lumpur, Brunei and Zhuhai, China. An industry consortium consisting of CAE, Eurocopter, Rheinmetall Defence Electronics and Thales offers NH90 helicopter training in three centres in Germany.

The company is deploying its first CAE 3000 Series helicopter simulators with full motion capability to Sao Paolo to service its joint venture with Lider, the largest helicopter operator in Brazil. This new simulator is revolutionizing helicopter training by introducing the highest level of realism in this market, according to CAE.

“This product innovation resulted in sales of 37 civil full-flight simulators during fiscal 2012, up from 29 the previous year. Year-to-date, we already announced 10 simulator sales,” said CAE president and CEO Marc Parent.

“In the defence market, we provide innovative solutions to the forces of more than 50 nations in order for troops to be ready for their missions. This year, we delivered the first simulator for the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced lead-in-fighter trainer and for the Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. We are also developing the first 3000 Series simulator for AgustaWestland’s new AW189 helicopter.” The defence market remains challenging, mainly because it’s difficult to predict the timing of orders, added Parent.

“We still have a strong pipeline of opportunities. For example, the U.S. military expects two of the biggest export platforms over the next decade to be the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and the C-130J Super Hercules,” Parent said. “CAE leads in terms of simulation-based training on both these platforms. And just last month, the U.S. Navy ordered more than 250 additional Seahawks, which, again, bodes well for CAE.”

The company continues to lead through innovative partnerships and relationships with its customers. In Defence, it created a venture with the Government of Brunei to develop a Multi-Purpose Training Centre where it will train helicopter operators as well as other personnel.

In addition to simulators, CAE currently offers training services at 42 locations worldwide for operators of commercial aircraft, business aircraft and civil helicopters. The latest is a new training centre in Seoul, Republic of Korea, to train pilots for the Boeing 737- 800 aircraft. The CAE Seoul centre will be located near Gimpo International Airport and was scheduled to be ready for training by fall 2012.


Building a Solid Brand

The company has come a long way since it was founded on St. Patrick’s Day in 1947 as Canadian Aviation Electronics by Ken Patrick, an ex-Royal Canadian Air Force officer. His goal was to “create something Canadian and take advantage of a war-trained team that was extremely innovative and very technology-intensive.”

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The Tropos-6000 visual system in the 3000 is bright and very realistic with accompanying engine noise adjustable for loudness. (Photo courtesy of CAE)


 

The Montreal-based company was originally housed in a vacant aircraft hangar at Saint-Hubert Airport, before moving to its current location near Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport in Dorval. With an original workforce of 18, CAE started to repair and overhaul ground communications equipment and install Antenna Farms in the Arctic for the RCAF. Within two years, CAE was firmly established in the Canadian radio industry.

In 1952, the company entered the simulator business with a contract from the RCAF to develop a CF 100 flight simulator. Having no prior experience in this highly specialized field, it signed a seven-year licensing agreement with Curtiss-Wright Corporation of the United States to provide technological support. By late 1957, 10 additional units had been delivered, including the company’s first export order to the Belgian air force.

Since those pioneer days, it has diversified from its original aviation roots into the medical and mining sectors – although they represent less than five per cent in annual sales – but continue to grow. Along the way, CAE has passed, acquired or sold competitors such as Singer, L-3 Link and Thales to become the largest flight simulator manufacturer in the world. Annual revenue almost equally split between civil and military, was more than $1.8 billion in fiscal 2012, while its order backlog stood at more than $3.7 billion during the same period.

The company has approximately 8,000 employees, including 3,900 in Canada at more than 100 sites and training locations in over 30 countries with the largest installed base of flight simulators and training devices globally with 1,300 which train an impressive 100,000 pilots and crew annually on more than 130 different types of aircraft. In addition, CAE is one of the top Canadian companies investing in R&D, accounting for 10 per cent of annual revenues.

The size of CAE’s growing global footprint further illustrates just how this dynamic Canadian firm is proving to be the real deal.


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