PAST & PRESENT
FlightSafety Intl celebrates 62 years of training success
Market leader in simulation keeps
getting bigger and better.
Personality behind the success
Bruce Whitman joined FlightSafety in 1961 as assistant to the president after 2 years as senior exec assistant with NBAA. Later that year he was elected vp and a director of the company. In 1962 he was named exec vp. He was promoted to president and CEO in 2003.
Ueltschi learned his work ethic early, growing up on a farm, and decided that he'd become a pilot after listening to 1927 radio coverage of Charles Lindbergh's solo transatlantic crossing.
Using profits from a self-managed hamburger stand the young Ueltschi financed flying lessons in a Waco 9 biplane powered by Curtiss OX5—a 90-hp liquid-cooled V8 engine—and soloed at age 16.
Borrowing $3500 from a regular hamburger customer he acquired his own Waco and gave up the fast food business to delve full time into the alluring world of being a professional pilot. After logging 2000 flying hours Ueltschi applied to work with the airlines and landed a job with Pan Am. He operated Pan Am flying boats out of Flushing Bay for 4 years before signing on as personal pilot for Juan Trippe.
Some of FlightSafety's first type-specific trainers.
Along the way, at 23, Ueltschi served as chief pilot for Queen City Flying Service in Cincinnati OH. He was a proficient aerobatic pilot and one of his responsibilities was teaching an aerobatic standardization course for civil aviation inspectors aboard open cockpit Wacos.
Ueltschi recalls a life-changing experience during that time when he fell out of a Waco during inverted flight at 2500 ft and his parachute did not open until 150 ft AGL. Three conclusions gained from this brush-with-death experience included the following:
• Training in an aircraft can be hazardous.
• When the unexpected occurs take appropriate action in a timely fashion.
• If at all possible, be lucky.
Ueltschi's career was inspired by Trippe—a man who know what he wanted to do and how to get it done. In 1951 Ueltschi took a $15,000 mortgage on his house and started FlightSafety in a 200 sq ft room in the Marine Terminal at LGA (La Guardia, New York NY) with just 1 full-time employee.
Link GAT I Trainer
Pilot training activity began with $10-per-hour rented Link Flight Trainer simulators from United Airlines LGA. As the business grew 4 used Link Flight Trainers were acquired from TWA—financed by corporate customers prepaying 5-year pilot training contracts.
A mechanical engineering landmark, the Link Flight Trainer was patented by Ed Link in 1931 and provided a means to train pilots in realistic conditions without sacrificing their safety.
The trainer was based on vacuum technology used in automated musical instruments of the 1920s. Early Link trainers sat on a series of organ bellows which would inflate or deflate to various heights to cause the trainer to bank, climb and dive. By 1933 Ed Link had upgraded his trainer so that it could be used for instrument training.
More than 10,000 Link trainers were deployed during WWII to improve safety and shorten training time for 500,000 pilots.
Pilots training in a Boeing 727 simulator in the 80s.
Corporate jet training was key to FlightSafety's growth through the mid-1960s. FlightSafety had the experience, expertise, equipment and staff to provide the necessary training to ensure high levels of corporate pilot competence—all at a lower price, and higher safety levels, than was possible with in-aircraft training.
When Pan Am became North American distributor for the Dassault Mystère 20 (later known in the US as the Falcon Fan Jet and then Falcon 20) in the mid-1960s, Ueltschi convinced Trippe to include FlightSafety pilot and maintenance training as part of aircraft purchase price.
By 1978 FlightSafety's client list included 1200 business aircraft operators and airlines with thousands of professional pilots and maintenance technicians receiving initial and recurrent training at 18 different learning centers in North America and Europe.
Availability of latest technology flight simulators has always been a key ingredient of FlightSafety's success and by 1996 the company had more than 100 flight simulators in operation for more than 50 different types of aircraft.
Today, under the leadership of Pres & CEO Bruce Whitman, FlightSafety operates the largest simulator training fleet in the world with more than 85,000 pilots and maintenance technicians trained annually at 40 learning centers.
Investing in technology
Learjet 45XR full flight simulator.
Over the years FlightSafety's success, in large measure, has hinged on providing and operating state-of-the-art simulator training systems.
Advances in computerization, processor speeds, graphics and interconnectivity have been stunning and Ueltschi sees no signs of technological progress slowing in the foreseeable future.
FlightSafety orchestrated a number of training equipment manufacturer acquisitions over the years in order to secure a controllable, dependable and cost effective supply of flight simulators and training devices.
In the late 1970s the company acquired simulator manufacturer Atkins and Merritt Training Equipment.