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Q&A: The Figurr Approach to Aviation Training Centre Design

17 avril, 2023 - Article
Figurr is an architectural design practice that has been specializing in flight training centers around the world for the past 20 years. The article below answers several important questions asked of us by our clients, simulator equipment suppliers, contractors, pilots, etc. Please enjoy the information below and feel free to reach out to Figurr for more information about the design and construction of your training center.

How does Figurr work in different parts of the world?

In Canada, Figurr and our engineering teams are licensed in all provinces where we play a conventional role working with clients from the early programming stages, designing and creating visualizations through full construction documents and specifications. In most jurisdictions, we offer a full range of architectural and engineering services and coordinate with third-party consultants. 

For projects outside of Canada, we’ve developed a methodology of working with clients as well as the local design and construction industries. We produce a “bridging” set of documents, which roughly correlates to a complete design development package. The bridging set allows Figurr to leverage our expertise in the design of training centers and our technical understanding of building infrastructure—training device interface while allowing a local designer take advantage of their expertise in local code and construction practices.

The intent of the bridging set is to show how the functional and technical requirements of the project are to be met and to show compliance with the client’s program requirements. Throughout the development of the bridging set, all design requirements are coordinated using drawings, specifications for training specific building requirements, and room data sheets. 

This level of information allows the client to enter into agreement with a local design builder or developer to complete the 100% construction drawings. Figurr often stays involved throughout the rest of the design process to provide peer review of the drawings as they evolve to ensure any changes made do not have a negative impact on the client’s training requirements.  

How can design be used to help foster and support a positive training culture?

Training centres are schools with a focused curriculum and task-specific workflow. Whether students are learning in a classroom setting, training on a full flight simulator or wide-body trainer, or task focused on an integrated procedural trainer, a space that is well thought out and designed contributes to the positive learning experience. The general layout can utilize program synergies to create efficient workflows between the student and instructor and between the simulator training and the associated learning exercises.

Positive design begins as a dialogue. How the building is detailed evolves from those dialogues. Flexibility for future growth, attention to noise mitigation strategies, creation of spaces where students and instructors can take a momentary pause and engage in informal conversations—these are aspects of a well-designed learning centre which foster a positive training culture. 

What can sensible design bring to the future of aviation training?

Aviation architecture must be flexible and adaptable to the clients’ needs and industry requirements. The design and construction process takes time, and what might be an immediate need when a project begins may not be the same need when the building is being finished. One of our challenges is to design buildings which not only respond to the immediate, but are also adaptable and flexible to meet future growth projections.

A conversation we're having right now with almost all of our clients is how to help them respond to the global shortage of pilots. Training centres are fundamentally schools. Pilots, crews, and technicians go to a training centre to learn and hone their trade. Thoughtful design can make better learning environments. It takes time for students to go through their training, whether it’s annual recurring sessions for seasoned pilots and crew or for people just starting their career—time is precious. We approach training centre design by trying to create focused learning spaces, by maximizing the efficiency of flow through the building and creating multifunctioning spaces that can be used in different capacities at different times for different purposes. 

If you look through how an organization structures their training, there is typically almost zero down time. Some training centres are so taxed that they operate on a near 24-hour training cycle. So, the question then becomes: How can we design the building around their schedule, and can the building alleviate some of that pressure? It's an ongoing discussion, but at the core of it all is quality and efficiency. 

How does sustainability factor into training centre design? 

Figurr has always approached projects from a sustainable perspective. The choice of materials, building envelope design, heating and cooling systems, lighting, and atmosphere—these all play a part in helping a building be more environmentally conscious. 

Over the years, it's been great seeing these concepts embraced by the industry, and more and more of our clients are asking intelligent questions about how to minimize their carbon footprint and take advantage of their location. We believe people are realizing that these decisions not only help create beautiful buildings, but they are proving that intelligent and thoughtful design has positive impacts on learning and contributes to lower annual maintenance costs. 

How did the firm develop a reputation as the leader in aviation training centre architectural design? 

As architects and designers, we're constantly looking for challenges and opportunities to learn. The aviation industry offers both. We've developed strong working relationships with the project managers, systems engineers, facility and operations managers, and technical engineers in the field. Through these relationships, we have gained invaluable expertise with the specific requirements of flight simulator and cabin crew installations. We’ve worked on a wide variety of aviation training projects with corporate training partners, simulator manufacturers, airline carriers, and within the defense and security industries, which has led to an in-depth understanding of many of the technical and non-technical issues relating to the specifics of air crew, cabin crew, and maintenance training. Being able to translate our understanding of concepts like virtual training, integrated part task training, and distributive mission planning into a built form has opened the doors for new projects with passionate and engaging clientele.

Our reputation as a leader in aviation training architecture stems from many successful projects and the development of long-standing relationships in the industry. The aviation industry is competitive and sophisticated. There is a level of accountability that we don't see in all industries. This keeps us pushing ideas, constantly asking if there is a better, more efficient, or more focused solution. While each project shares similar typologies and challenges, they each have different solutions. Figurr believes our partners appreciate the attention we give to their real-world challenges, and that is one of the reasons most of our projects are with organizations we've worked with in the past. 

Are there any past projects you are most proud of? And are there any upcoming projects you're excited about?

Over the past 20 years, we've designed and helped manage the construction of aviation training centres around the globe. There are several milestone projects that we can think of, either because of their complexity and design, their location, or sometimes because they represent the beginnings of a new relationship. 

  • The JetBlue Campus in Orlando, Florida was one of our early projects which incorporated training, living, and business requirements.
  • The North East Training Center in New Jersey is a corporate jet training center which was built and expanded on over the years in multiple phases. Working with CAE, we designed the centre and then renovated and expanded it to meet their growing training needs. 
  • The Dothan Training Center near Fort Rucker, Alabama was completed in 2016 and provides fixed wing training to the U.S. Army and Airforce through simulators, classrooms and live flying training. This was our first project that utilized the concept of a bridging set and received fantastic recognition for providing a quality training environment. 
  • In collaboration with CAE and AirBus, the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue training centre was our first LEED Silver certified flight training centre. Located in Comox, British Columbia, the centre provides the Royal Canadian Air Force with flight and maintenance training for their new C295 fixed wing search and rescue aircraft. 
  • We recently completed the first of a multi-phase business training center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The training center is a warehouse conversion to support eight full flight simulators—a mix of new EMM and legacy HPUs. In addition to the 50,000 sq. ft. footprint, the design included another 30,000 sq. ft. of new mezzanine. For this project, we incorporated our client’s real estate and branding guidelines into the design. We’re in early discussions on the next phases, which will redevelop another 100,000 sq. ft. of warehouse.

We have a couple of exciting projects in construction right now: 

In Savannah, Georgia, we are far along in the construction of the Savannah Business Jet Training Center. The training center is located near the airport and supports four full flight simulators, integrated procedural trainers, classroom training, administrative offices, and a cafeteria and gift shop. The center is scheduled to be completed and ready for training in summer 2023. 

On the other end of the construction spectrum, we’ve begun site remediation for a new Qantas Flight Training Center in Sydney, Australia. This project is located on a small site that is part of a larger district redevelopment zone. It includes eight full flight simulators—both EMM and HPU—as well as full cabin crew training including slide trainers, a fuselage trainer, and door trainers. For this and the Savannah Business Jet Training Centre, we partnered with local designers using the bridging set project delivery concept.

We’re excited about two projects currently under design: 

The first is a renovation and expansion to Air Canada’s Vancouver training centre. This is a particularly challenging project, as we are conceiving it in three phases to allow Air Canada to continue training throughout construction.  Once Phase 3 is completed, the training centre will house seven full flight simulators and pilot support spaces. This projected is targeted to be LEED Silver and will be Air Canada’s first LEED certified training centre. 

The other project currently under design will be our largest training centre designed and built at a single time. Working closely with Atlas Air, the new training center is a hybrid 4-storey office tower and 2-storey, 12-bay simulator hall located near Miami, Florida. The center will be their new regional head office, consolidating multiple buildings into a single site. Designed to support 12 full flight trainers, 2 slide trainers, 18 door trainers, 10 fixed training devices, 40 briefing rooms and 12 classrooms, the building is expected to be Green Globes certified. 

Ready to talk about your next aviation training centre design project? Connect with us today.

Rick Rubin,
Architect, Founding Partner
(514) 942-2201

Keith Johnson,
Architect, Aviation Sector
(514) 566-5148

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