The training center for Azul and Trip is part of fusion plan
UniAzul, the new training center for the merging airlines Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras and Trip Linhas Aereas, centralizes the carriers' training needs, but also serves as a catalyst for bringing the companies together toward their unified growth plan. So it is fitting that the 6,000-sq.-meter training university for the airlines opened in October 2013, the same month that the carriers received Brazilian ANAC regulatory approval to integrate operations.
The majority of airline unions approved compensation packages on Jan. 13, which should allow the airlines to receive final merger approval by March 31, according to Evandro Braga de Oliveira, Azul's technical director.
Although the airlines had very similar cultures before the merger began on May 25, 2012, UniAzul near Viracopos-Campinas Airport in southeastern Brazil is the entrance point for new employees to absorb the company's policies, values and goals—as well as receive specific job training. For Azul and Trip employees, “this is a rich experience for all of us—to put it all together,” says Monica Martins Mitraub, a hostess at UniAzul.
Because it now serves as the only training center for employees—including pilot, maintenance, flight attendant, cargo, dispatch and administrative—it is a good way to derive synergies through training. It also standardizes education and centralizes records, as well as “shows that the company believes in training and employee renewal,” says Gessica Gasparin Gomes, technical training manager.
It includes four full-flight simulators, two flat-panel fixed-based devices, 15 classrooms, one auditorium, a cafeteria and administrative space. This mixture of high-tech training pays homage to each airline's history in a modern, sun-lit edifice. Images of each of the airlines' aircraft by tail number decorate one wall. The airlines add at least 50 employees each month, although a new group of 140 started on Jan. 20 and comprised five dispatchers, 28 flight attendants, 35 mechanics, cargo and administrative staff. Because of this influx, about 350 employees are training daily at UniAzul, and the company expects to train about 1,050 people each year on average.
Azul is the only Brazilian airline to feature LiveTV, so one room is full of seatback monitors, which are used to test new software, hardware and programming, as well as allow maintainers to troubleshoot equipment in a simulated environment.
Azul operates to 105 destinations with a fleet of 134 aircraft, including 52, 22 190s, five , 32 -600s, 14 72-500s and nine -500s. It expects to take delivery of seven ATR 72-600s and six Embraer E-Jets in 2014.
To accommodate this fleet, UniAzul has two ATR and two Embraer full-flight simulators, recently installed by FlightSafety International. Azul hopes to receive ANAC certification for the $13-14 million ATR 72-600 simulator in March. In the interim, FlightSafety and Azul will marry the mechanical, software and visual systems, which are “the brains of the simulator,” says Paulo Sergio Santi, a UniAzul pilot training coordinator.
Eight computers control the systems—everything from engine parameters to sounds—both in normal and malfunctioning operations mode; one computer is dedicated to the simulator's visuals. Azul has designated an enclosed room for the software and visual computers for its four simulators, which also include an ATR 72-500 and two for Embraer 190/195s. The mechanical systems' computers, which control things such as the simulator's movement, are housed in large free-standing cabinets on the floor near the training device.
The complete process, from initial installation to certification, usually takes 2.5-3 months, says Santi.
Azul also is greatly ramping up its maintenance staff: It hired 300 technicians in the last month, says Gomes.
After their one-day indoctrination class, Gomes says technicians receive additional basic and theoretical training, as well as 16 days of ramp and transit. Special procedures training such as RNP (required navigational performance) and RVSM (reduced vertical separation minima) also is covered. Because Azul operates to 105 destinations, many of them remote, the airline has line stations at all but 10 that are sited in the Amazon. This means aircraft sit overnight so the airline allocates 2-3 technicians to each to perform line maintenance.
Azul is in the process of adding a Maintenance Laboratory at UniAzul, which is a room full of scrap parts and tools that technicians can handle to see how they are put together. An Embraer 190 landing gear strut, windshield, passenger service unit and GE34-10E blade are among the inventory. “The parts will help technicians see the real size,” which is “harder to do when visualizing them solely through schematics or as part of a larger system,” says Flavio Vercsi Collet e Silva, the maintenance training coordinator. He hopes the laboratory will be “up and running by mid-year.”