Boeing (NYSE:BA) promised to ramp up flight training efforts for commercial airlines in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas on Tuesday, announcing plans to add more flight simulators targeted for its next-generation 737, 777 and 787 Dreamliners
The announcement, made at the World Aviation training Symposium, comes amid an expected rise in deliveries, especially in Asia, over the next few years.
It also comes just days after a 737 aircraft operated by Lion Air fell into the water in Bali last weekend after missing the runway. While there were no deaths in the incident, the crash, which occurred during strong storm winds and torrential downpour, nevertheless underscores the need to have pilots prepared for all types of scenarios.
Probes into Saturday's crash have since been opened, and Boeing in an e-mail to FOX Business said it would not comment on the cause, unable to speculate because Boeing is a technical advisor to the recently-opened National Transportation Safety Board investigation.
To support flight crew training, the Chicago-based jet maker’s Boeing Flight Services unit says it will install two new full-flight simulators – a 777 and next-generation 737 – at its Singapore training campus, as well as one 787 facility in London. The three add to its fleet of more than 80 simulators around the world.
The Asia simulators are expected to be ready for training in early to mid-2014 and will support “growing pilot training needs and increasing airplane deliveries in the Asia Pacific region,” Boeing said.
Demand for Boeing planes has ramped up in recent years amid the insatiable appetite of Asian customers and as the U.S.-based company steals business from rival Airbus. In 2012, for example, Boeing inked a deal for 94 737 jets with Singapore Airlines, which previously had an all-Airbus fleet.
The Global Business Travel Association this week said business travel in Asia is among the most robust in the world. China’s total business travel spending increased by an average 15.5% annually from 2000 to 2012, and is expected to grow by 15.1% in 2013 to $226 billion, according to the GBTA.
The projected business travel expansion of 16.9% in 2014 is expected to be more than twice the rate of the U.S., putting China on track to become the largest business travel market in the world as early as 2015, the GBTA said in a survey conducted in partnership with Visa (NYSE:V).
“Although economic growth has been moderated by ongoing global uncertainty, the Chinese economy is regaining its momentum,” said Welf Ebeling, vice president of operations at GBTA Asia. “As a result, we are confident that stronger domestic demand will spur renewed growth in business travel spending.”
Singapore-based SilkAir recently signed a five-year training agreement with Boeing to support the airline’s transition to an all-Boeing fleet of 737s. The added 737 training capability is expected to meet demand as customers in Indonesia, Japan, Korea and China take deliveries of new airplanes, Boeing said.
Airlines in China and Indonesia as well as in the Middle East and Africa are also expected to benefit from the increased 777 training capacity, the company said.
To meet growing training needs in Europe, Boeing will install a new 787 full-flight simulator at its London Gatwick campus, the second 787 simulator at the site.
"Continued development of a robust global training network is vital, not just for Boeing, but for the industry," said Bob Bellitto, global sales director of Boeing Flight Services.
The 2012 Boeing Pilot & Technician Outlook cites demand for 460,000 new commercial airlines pilots and 601,000 new maintenance technicians over the next 20 years.