Author: Dr. Sushil Sharma

THE Fiji Aviation Academy (FAA) is expected to be operational by 2019 in Namaka, Nadi International Airport. Its establishment in Fiji, preceded with a groundbreaking ceremony on December 7, 2017, is visionary and will be a great technical boost to the aviation industry in our part of the world.

The FAA will have its own in-house simulator for training of Air Bus A330 and Boeing 737 pilots, with a state-of-the-art aviation academy.

The FAA will provide our national airline, Fiji Airways, with full control of its pilot training program with total independence, speed, efficiencies and enormous savings. I believe having ownership of the entire FAA on its home soil right next to its head office, with total ownership of the highly sophisticated and expensive simulators replicating the real cockpit of the Air Bus and Boeing planes is a great boon to the national airline and the Fijian Government.

Simulator training saves costs to an airline as the cost of flying a real plane for training is estimated about 40 times more. Conversely, this means that training on a simulator is 40 times cheaper. Should the organisation have ownership of the simulator itself and/or if the academy belongs to the national airline itself then its training costs are reduced many times over.

Further income can be generated for the national airline and/or government by opening up the academy for commercial operational training or simulator use by other airlines in the region.

Many people close to the airline industry and the minister himself, from the side of the Government, have worked very hard to cement the vision of the Government to have its own aviation academy.

I commend the efforts of Fiji Airways managing director and CEO Andre Viljoen, Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Boeing 737 fleet manager Captain Anthony Browne, Fiji Airways board chairman Rajesh Punja, and Brendan Long from simulator supplier CAE to support this grand project.

Fiji has broken ground and gone ahead with a project that many in the developed world have been unable to replicate so far. This is a great milestone for a small nation like Fiji and is a feather in the cap for our leaders who have had faith in the project and did not give up where many others would have succumbed to, I believe, the fear of failure and probably given up by now. This project is no small task and will cost as much as $100 million.

Fiji also has its own Fiji Maritime Academy (FMA) in Laucala Bay, Suva where the Government has spent more than $2m for a navigation bridge simulator and engine room simulator.

It is believed that the FMA's new educational resource is the best facility in the South Pacific region for maritime training and it will definitely benefit not only Fijian students but also regional students.

While the FMA is an entity of the Fiji National University (FNU), it is now managed by Sri Lankan-based CINEC Maritime Campus.

Captain Gurusinghe said the newly-managed institution aimed to equip each student to be a qualified and competent professional in his or her chosen career.

"These developments will place the academy as one of the leading maritime training institutions in the world. We want our students to be competent in the field of work and that is how we will be grooming them to be."

CINEC campus management started on January 1, 2014 and so far, developments at the academy have been ongoing.

In a bid to produce qualified and competent professionals in the maritime industry, the academy is developing its teaching resources, curriculum and facilities as the Government has now prioritised development of the maritime sector and maritime training.

To this end, it has allocated funds to upgrade equipment and facilities at the academy. The new changes are in line with Government's focus and emphasis on education that is aimed at producing a competent and a globally competitive workforce.

Complementing the FMA, the Fiji Aviation Academy will be a state-of-the -art facility and will be built at a cost of about $US45m ($F92.8m).

The FAA is envisioned to cater for the training of pilots locally and those from the Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand.

It was also fitting that the groundbreaking ceremony was done on International Civil Aviation Day, which fell on December 7 with the theme "Working Together to Ensure No Country is Left Behind" on the heels of which we will be celebrating the Wright Brothers' triumph.

Wilber Wright and Orville Wright made history 114 years ago, one week shy of Christmas Day on December 17, 1903, for piloting the first powered airplane 20 feet (6 metres) above a wind-swept beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, US. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet (36 metres).

It was therefore fitting that the groundbreaking was done on International Civil Aviation Day, the purpose of which is to help generate and reinforce worldwide awareness of the importance of international civil aviation to the social and economic development of states, and of the unique role of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in helping states.

As the UN and world nations have now adopted Agenda 2030 and embarked on a new era in global sustainable development, the importance of aviation as an engine of global connectivity has never been more relevant to the Chicago Convention's objectives to look to international flight as a fundamental enabler of global peace and prosperity.

This will mean that Fiji Airways will have the supply of certified internationally-trained pilots in Fiji.

A full flight simulator provides a complete representation of the simulated aircraft in question. It consists of a fully accurate flight deck, a visual system, a control loading system and a motion system.

There are four levels of certification a full flight simulator (FFS) can receive (A, B, C and D) with D being the highest one. A level D simulator consists of six degrees of freedom motion system as well as wraparound collimated visuals. Level D simulators must provide additional special effects and cues to the pilot and there are more quality tests that are required to be run to demonstrate the simulator matches the aircraft.

Airlines make extensive and full use of full flight simulators (FFS) and they are incredibly useful.

The average level D simulator might cost $US15m ($30.8m) but it is a small fraction of the cost required to train on the real aircraft (factoring in fuel and maintenance etc).

Training statistics show that the FFS training can only be 1/40th the cost of using the real aircraft. In addition to the cost savings, they allow crew members to train for situations that would be too dangerous or impossible to simulate using a real aircraft, for example a sudden engine failure, among many others.

The advantage of a level D simulator is that it is certified to allow zero flight time training, whereas the first flight a pilot flies on a plane is a revenue flight. Full flight simulators are used in both initial and recurrent pilot training.

A FFS is also designed to replicate the manner in which an aircraft will react to external factors such as air density, turbulence, wind shear, cloud, precipitation, severe icing, head wind, tail wind and the loss of visibility because of inclement weather.

Source: The Fiji Times Online

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