L3Harris expands training capacity to address pilot shortage

L3Harris Technologies plans to open its recently expanded UK pilot training center in Cranfield this month. The extensive upgrade of existing facilities is part of the company’s strategy to help airlines provide more efficient ways to train badly needed new pilots.

The upgraded training centre, part of the aerospace facilities of the UK’s renowned Cranfield University, now includes more classrooms for ground training and a trio of Diamond DA42 flight simulators. The simulators will provide ab initio trainees with what L3 calls an ultra-realistic learning experience, while building the ability to perform exercises safely in simulators alongside in-flight flight training. At the same time, the company is adding EASA flight training to its flight school curriculum in Sanford, Florida, to allow students to take advantage of the flying conditions and lower costs available in the United States before flying. complete twin-engine training, instrument ratings, and licensing in the UK.

Before Covid, airlines were already facing the prospect of dwindling pilot numbers, and the pandemic has made that worse, according to L3Harris vice president of sales and marketing Robin Glover-Faure. “The industry has probably seen the retirement bubble accelerate by about three or four years, and in the last two years there has been a reduction of about 50% in pilot training, partly due to the stress of the pandemic. These factors combined cause a denouement,” he said. AIN.

In the short term, airlines tried to get out of the problem by paying large bonuses to attract flight personnel. But Glover-Faure believes carriers would be better off investing in a longer-term, strategic approach to restoring the pipeline of new pilots. In some cases, he said, the huge bonuses available have actually made the situation worse by driving instructors away from flight schools.

As much as airlines need more pilots, post-Covid business conditions continue to hurt their balance sheets, making it difficult to find the funds needed to alleviate the worsening shortage. One option is to secure loans of around $100,000 that Glover-Faure estimates it takes for an intern to hold a straight-seat position at an airline. But while the banks advance the funds, the amount is listed on the carrier’s balance sheet as a liability. “But airlines are going to have to face the reality of this situation,” he said. “It’s not an option to keep paying $50,000 login bonuses.”

Meanwhile, L3Harris is also investing in using data analytics to help pilots fly more safely and sustainably by burning less fuel and emitting less carbon. It created a new division in its commercial aviation training business to focus on these improvements.

“We make much better use of simulator and aircraft data, turning that data into playback information [during training sessions] on how to improve the efficiency of airport approaches and energy management, and how to handle situations such as a single engine failure after takeoff,” said Glover-Faure. “Until recently, we’ve had a feast of data but a famine of ideas.”

As the airline industry has now committed to achieving net zero carbon goals, it is imperative that flight crew understand how they can contribute. In the opinion of L3Harris, integrating these considerations into the program from the start of ab initio training will embed them into their mindset from the start.

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