In the run up to the official launch of the Dreamliner next year, Boeing has launched a state-of-the-art B787 full flight simulator and training facilities at its London Gatwick campus.
Launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) is expecting delivery of the Dreamliner in the first quarter of next year, and has two B787 training facilities at its hub in Tokyo. In the UK, Thomson Airways will be the first carrier to welcome the plane into its fleet in 2012, followed by Monarch Airlines in 2013, and although Boeing cannot yet reveal which airlines will be making use of its Gatwick training suite, these two carriers are likely candidates for the future.
At the moment, there are five destinations that offer B787 flight, cabin and maintenance training. There are eight full flight Dreamliner simulators – two at Boeing’s headquarters in Seattle, two in Tokyo, two in Singapore, one in London and one in Shanghai. And along with ANA, 2011 is anticipating deliveries to Continental Airlines based in Texas, Japan Airlines (JAL) based in Tokyo, LAN based in Santiago, Chile and Royal Air Maroc based in Casablanca, Morocco. As of September, Boeing has had orders for 847 Dreamliners from 55 airlines around the world.
The unveiling of the training facilities bodes well for the inauguration of the aircraft, which has suffered a series of delays – it was originally supposed to see its first flight take off in summer 2007 but, instead, this took place at the end of last year. The aircraft is now undergoing final tests to get approval before going into operation.
So far, Boeing has seen about 100 pilots and technicians undertake its B787 training programme at its suites in Seattle and Tokyo – the course helps those who have either had some experience of working with Boeing aircraft make the transition to the new plane in five days, or those with no experience in up to 20 days.
Boeing estimates that 30,900 new planes, 466,650 pilots and 596,500 technicians will be needed in the next 20 years to support the growth in air passenger and cargo traffic, and to meet this demand Boeing has developed what it describes as “the most efficient type of training”, using not only the full flight simulator but scenario-based learning in the classroom using computers.
Mark Albert, leader of B787 and B747-8 training programme and director of sim services, says: “We are now the operator and the trainer – we will set the standard for in-flight training, and when we say we have the best instructors in the industry, we mean it.” He adds that airlines will pay for training with credits they have earned. “As with frequent flyer miles where the more you fly the more you build up, the more planes an airline buys, the more points they get, and these points can then be used to purchase training.” But Boeing was hesitant to reveal how much a single day of training would actually cost.
As each full flight simulator, which has been designed by Thales, is valued at US$15-20 million, using it is very expensive, which is why Boeing also provides, as part of the programme, cheaper computer-based training in the classroom that incorporates 3D virtual reality visualisations of the interior and exterior of the aircraft to allow pilots to test their knowledge and practice manouevres. (Visit facebook.com/businesstraveller for a behind-the-scenes look at how it works.)
Report by Jenny Southan