Despite the three-month drama over a safe return to flight with lithium-ion batteries, has found a silver lining in its 787 playbook.
Boeing Flight Services took advantage of the lull in 787 pilot training prompted by the airplane's grounding to fulfill a three-year-old plan to reorganize training. One thing lead to another and soon Flight Services was rethinking where to run all of its U.S.-based pilot training. As a result, pilot training will shift from Boeing's Longacres campus near its aircraft factories in Seattle to Miami International Airport, a location the company says its European and Latin American customers like better.
The first step was set to begin the weekend of March 30-31 when the first of two 787 full-flight simulators (FFS) was loaded onto a truck for the trip. Dismantling of Longacres' second 787 FFS is set to begin the week of April 1. By mid-summer, the company expects demand for training to resume, assuming regulators will have cleared the aircraft for commercial operations.
The transfers are another indication of Boeing's willingness to move operations from its historic home city, just as it did with corporate headquarters and a second 787 factory. Most of the 500 employees at the Longacres campus were caught by surprise when the decision was announced last month.
The head of Flight Services, Vice President Sherry Carbary, says the timing is right to help Boeing prepare for greater training demand as it increases production rates. “If we are going to better serve our customers and meet training commitments and airplane deliveries as we ramp-up on rate, the time to do this is now,” she says.
Boeing has been expanding pilot and mechanics training services since 2000 when it partnered with FlightSafety International to open the Miami base. Last year, Flight Services trained about 20,000 pilots, either directly or in joint ventures with airlines. The company projects growing demand. Its 2012 Pilot & Technician Outlook estimates that 460,000 new pilots and 601,000 technicians will be needed over the next 20 years.
Besides Seattle and Miami, Boeing operates pilot training centers in London, Shanghai and Singapore, and partners with airline customers at 15 other locations in the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. Miami is already its biggest U.S. base, with 20 FFS bays. The city also is favored by others, including, which has its North American training center there.
Boeing's 787 training involves more equipment than other aircraft types and is a likely precursor of what is to come with new aircraft designs. FFS operations are expensive, so to cut costs 787 student pilots use a Flight Training Device that faithfully replicates a cockpit like an FFS but does not include the costly hydraulic system used to simulate an aircraft's motion.
Computers also have become integral to mechanics training. Longacres has four interactive 787 desk-top training centers and two of those will be moved to Miami. The others will remain in Seattle, which also will remain headquarters for mechanics training on other aircraft types.
The timing for FFS moves for other aircraft families will depend on training schedules. There are a lot to move. By year-end, Boeing expects twoFFSs and one FFS each for 717, , 767 and 777 aircraft to be moved and operational in Miami. Longacres also has a 757 FFS, but it is expected to be sold for parts.
They will join three 737NG FFSs, two for 737 Classics, and one each for the 757, 757/767 combo, 767, 777 and MD-11 in Miami, plus an AirbusFFS for customers with mixed fleets. That leaves nine open bays awaiting the eight simulators coming from Seattle.
The shift will not affect pilot training for the 737-derived, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. The U.S. Navy trains them with an FFS at its Integrated Training Center in Jacksonville, Fla. The U.S. Air Force expects only a minor impact on training pilots for thetanker, a 767 derivative. Pilots will receive 767 type training in Miami and finish with separate KC-46 mission systems training in Seattle. Neither program schedule will be affected, Boeing says.
Although full-flight simulators are expensive—Boeing says a 737 FFS costs about $10 million and the more complex 787 runs $20 million—many large carriers do their own training and outsource services to smaller carriers.
Flight Services has more than 500 employees, but fewer than 100 are directly involved in training. The company has not decided how many of these will be asked to relocate to Miami.
Last year, the Airplane Manufacturing Pilots Association, which has 104 members representing Boeing's training instructors, affiliated with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (Speea), the union that represents the company's engineers and technical workers. The announcement came as training pilots are negotiating their first contract. Many split time between instructing and ferrying aircraft to customers. Of the 104, Speea estimates about 30 will be affected initially by Boeing's move.
Speea Executive Director Ray Goforth says Seattle's engineers find access to the Longacres site convenient “to test things out.” Boeing responds that they can do their jobs using web-based electronic linkages through its “E-Cab” system.