CAE open to building 737 Max simulators faster to help airlines

News provided by the Montreal Gazette – link to full story

Montreal-based manufacturer says it’s ready to speed up output once the beleaguered jet is cleared to fly again.

Montreal’s CAE Inc. stands ready to speed up production of Boeing Co. 737 Max flight simulators once the beleaguered jet is cleared to fly again — whenever that happens.

Boeing on Tuesday recommended airline pilots go through simulator training before they resume operating the 737 Max — a departure from its long-held position that pilots would only require computer-based training. The U.S. planemaker has spent the past few months preparing software fixes to secure regulatory approval for the jets to fly commercially again.

The 737 Max has been grounded since March following two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Air Canada and WestJet Airlines, the two biggest Canadian carriers, both flew the plane until the grounding.

Long a manufacturer of full-flight simulators, CAE also runs the world’s largest training network for civil aviation pilots, with about 300 devices deployed at company-run facilities in cities such as Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur and London. CAE says its 2,000 instructors train more than 135,000 pilots every year.

“We think we have a role to play to help solve the situation,” Hélène Gagnon, a CAE spokeswoman, told the Montreal Gazette in a telephone interview. “We can increase our production capacity. We can go faster. We have the people and we have the space. It’s easier for us to boost output than it would be for a smaller player.”

While welcoming Boeing’s revised stance, which will present CAE with a “clear market opportunity,” Gagnon noted it will be up to regulatory authorities such as Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration of the U.S. to outline training rules for 737 Max pilots. No such decision has yet been taken.

Only 34 certified Max flight simulators currently exist globally, the New York Times and the Seattle Times reported Tuesday.

CAE currently needs about a year to build a 737 Max simulator, Gagnon said. She couldn’t immediately say how much time could be saved by speeding up output, or how many workers CAE would need to hire.

All of CAE’s simulator manufacturing takes place in Montreal. The company says it controls about 80 per cent of the global market for the devices.

CAE is currently building 25 of its 737 Max simulators for various airlines, having already delivered 23 units as of last month. It also has two 737 Max devices installed at company training centres in Toronto and Dallas. Carriers that have bought CAE simulators for the 737 Max include Air Canada and Southwest Airlines of the U.S.

Gagnon declined to say how much time CAE will need to build the remaining 737 Max simulators it has on order.

CAE said in November it had started making extra 737 Max simulators in anticipation of future demand. It wouldn’t say how many of those so-called “white tail” devices — which aren’t attributed to any airline customer — are being built.

Once Boeing’s software fixes have been approved, all 737 Max simulators — including CAE’s — will still need to be re-certified by Transport Canada and other civil aviation authorities.

Reuters contributed to this report.