US manufacturer Boeing is to add four full-flight simulators to its training center near London Gatwick Airport, turning it into the company’s largest training facility outside the US.

The site currently has seven full-flight simulators, comprising four Boeing 787s (three -8s and one -9) from L3, one CAE 777-300ER, one 737NG from FSI and one 737 MAX 8 from Tru. It also has fixed training devices for the 787-8, 757, 767, 737NG and 737 MAX 8.

Speaking at a media briefing July 12, Boeing Training and Flight Services Gatwick campus manager Angela Golder said four new bays will be added in 2018, driven by growing demand for pilot and technician training.

“We’ve now got an agreement to build a four-bay annex, which will make this our largest campus outside of the US. We are just in the process of finalizing [the aircraft type for] two of them and for the other two we are looking at where the market will go,” Golder said.

Since 2004, the Gatwick facility has trained more than 5,200 pilots, but 1,700 of these were over the last 18 months, demonstrating the ramp-up. The majority of this work is type ratings and differences courses, driven by the introduction of new aircraft types.

The 4,900-sq m center opened in 2004 with four simulator bays. Another two were added in 2007 and these were joined by a seventh bay in 2009. Today, the Gatwick facility generates about £12 million ($15.4 million) in revenue and employs around 70 staff.

Golder said the first 737 MAX simulator was delivered in spring 2017 and was qualified last month. “There is a bit of a lull [on the 737 MAX simulator] now—we are training instructors so they are ready to go—but from September we are going to be really busy.”

Boeing also has one 737 MAX full-flight simulator in Miami—the manfacturer’s largest facility where it has a total of 20 simulators—and two in Singapore. Gatwick was the third worldwide to have a 737 MAX simulator and another is being installed in Shanghai. “We are looking at customer demand [for additional 737 MAX simulators], talking to them to find out what their potential is. We are having a planning conference to see what they need,” Golder said.

She added that Boeing is always willing to consider putting its own devices into unused customer bays. “If a customer has an empty bay, it is a great opportunity for us to put a simulator in,” Golder said.

The Gatwick facility is open 363 days per year and Boeing is looking at how to get better utilization out of its simulators. Each session lasting about four hours and the Gatwick simulators were in use for three sessions per day, but Golder said: “We are aiming for five sessions a day. We really need to, because the demand is there.”

This is being made possible by narrowing the set-up time between customers from 45 to 15 minutes and by performing a small amount of preventative maintenance every day, although additional maintenance is done one day per week.

Boeing Flight Services is part of the new Boeing Global Services business unit, which was established at the beginning of July. When asked by ATW whether Boeing might acquire other training companies to grow its business, Golder said: “This is definitely something that is being reviewed within Boeing Global Services. We do aim to grow and want to be aggressive in our growth.”

She said there is a lot of untapped demand and customers are increasingly looking for a “one-stop shop” for flight training. “We keep saying that we know there is a shortage of pilots and engineers. The question is: how can we help.”

Boeing is already involved in ab initio training in China and the company is looking at how to also do this in Europe.

Victoria Moores