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Canada is the home for the world’s second largest fleet of civil helicopters, but for decades, most Canadian helicopter pilots seeking advanced training in a flight simulator had to fly south to the United States.
Now, Aircrew Training Canada Limited (ATCL) plans to offer simulator training closer to home at a new multi-simulator helicopter training center to be located in Sudbury, Ontario — a one-hour airline flight north of Toronto, near the geographic center of Canada.
ATCL is the brainchild of Dan Melanson and his partner Joe Natale, with the initial team also including Dennis Venturi and Tom Grover.
“About six years ago, I spent a lot of time looking at flight simulators and recognized that helicopter flight simulators were becoming much more sophisticated and affordable and that new training opportunities were emerging,” ATCL founder and CEO Melanson told Vertical.
“Most pilots flying twin-engine IFR [instrument flight rules] helicopters in Canada were training on full-flight simulators [FFS] and seeing the safety benefits, but pilots flying single-engine VFR [visual flight rules] helicopters were almost totally ignored.”
Melanson pulled a team together two years ago to establish a state-of-the-art helicopter pilot and maintenance training center in Canada.
The 20,000-square-foot ATCL facility will feature a helicopter and hangar and be equipped with four Frasca Level D FFS for the Bell 407GX, Airbus H130, Sikorsky S-76C++, and Leonardo AW139.
“Frasca produces an excellent simulator visual system and Motion Cueing System and they are a family-owned business that is very responsive and like-minded when it comes to training innovation,” said Melanson.
ATCL will decide which simulator will be first on order in the next month or two, with delivery expected in about 14 months. Subsequent simulators will follow at four- to six-month intervals. The first simulator training class will commence in late summer or early fall 2018.
“We are going to offer a full pilot ground school, aircraft maintenance system training, and flight training for four different helicopter families made by four different manufacturers,” said Venturi, VP of training at ATCL.
Scenario-based training will be the key focus of the facility and ATCL plans to work very closely with its customers to provide a training program that precisely meets an operator’s requirements right down to a visual database of its helicopter base and work locations — all mapped using a Lidar-equipped helicopter.
While the training center will be funded by a private investor, ATCL is also approaching the federal and provincial government for financial support, as the facility will help Sudbury and northeastern Ontario diversify their economies.
ATCL will house the latest of a growing number of helicopter simulation devices in Canada. In 2016, offshore operators, led by Cougar Helicopters, started training on a CAE Level D Sikorsky S-92 FFS in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland; and HNZ Group introduced a Frasca Level 7 Airbus AS350/H125 flight training device in Edmonton, Alberta.