Out of our series “The 10 most important things to consider when buying professional Flight Simulators” we now want to focus on
“Relocation of professional Flight Simulators from a user perspective.”
In my 15 years in professional flight simulation, I had been able to move flight simulators of all kinds from small desktop devices to the big Full Flight Simulators. I would now like to share some of my insights and also give you a list of necessities that come along moving flight simulators when you are operating devices or you are buying a used or even new devices.
- Preparation is key
- Pay attention to regulations, documentation and transport safety
- Technical expertise and regulatory compliance is highly recommended
A proper de-activation of device under the respective regulatory rule is a must no matter if you move it within the country or cross-boarder and into different regulatory systems.
The following steps are to be followed.
Consider regulatory acceptance for the new location/regulatory system.
Some users/operators think you can move simulators like aircraft and re-register them. This is a dangerous thought and probably the most important check you have to do before you acquire a professional flight simulator. To give you an example, we once quoted a FFS purchase with relocation in a seven-figure amount within EASA territory. Our client got angry and said but I can buy a device in the US for 90.000 USD. Yes, this is right but to move it into EASA territory you have to update the simulator in a way and add the relocation cost that brings you at even numbers to what we had offered at the time. Clients are not aware that if you cross regulatory rules you may end up with going through an initial qualification under the latest and highest standard. You can imagine this is quite a hassle with a device that is 30 years old. Then also you may even end up with limited datapack and license for validating your Master Qualification Test Guides for that particular sim. There is a list of items I do not want to bring up here but be aware to check with a specialist and the authorities before you make the acquisition and relocation.
Inform CAA and conclude necessary steps.
Unless considered in point above, you should inform the CAA of the removal site about the intention, also if you put the device in a box for a certain amount of time. Just pulling plugs and switching off might give you a lot of hassles after.
Ensuring all documents are available and presented for acceptance to authorities
We have seen it all. Please ensure all relevant documents are provided with the device.
The backbone is the Master Qualification Test Guide (MQTG) which contains the validation results for that particular flight simulator and is accompanied by licenses and flight test data documentation. If you miss out on ensuring this documentation is available, you might turn your device into a piece of useless scrap metal. We had that case inspecting a device of a customer who violated point 1 above and this particular point. Not only had he purchased a FAA device for EASA territory and would need to undergo an initial qualification, but he also did not have any MQTG documents nor proof of validation data. Thus, no way of recovering the project for him. This is a story I will share in another blog post.
Proper Baseline Reporting
Once you have decided that a device needs to be relocated, you should ensure that a baseline report is established by the relocation company. Ideally, you should have a technician of your own team supporting this together with a pilot to ensure that all functions are properly documented. This report serves as baseline for reviving the device at the receiving center.
Site Surveying at removal and receiving center
This ties in with the point 3 above. You need to be aware of all the potential hazards and restrictions. We once had a 737NG Full Flight in our ways to remove another device and it needed to be stopped for at least a day. Also, if you rely on measurements taken by somebody unknown you may find yourself in trouble upon arrival of the device when parts are not able to get through gates etc. A good relocation company will be able to provide this service for you.
Proper hauling equipment
Every part requires right equipment and we are talking about very sensitive technology. Again, a specialised company should know what they need. Be careful about cheap offers as they may cause trouble.
Be aware that insurance is key and ensure that whoever is relocating a device needs to present an assembly insurance and transport insurance. One extra advice here: Make up your mind on actual values, such as book value, residual values and replacement or repair costs. We once had water pouring into parts of the simulator during sea transport. Of course, you can ensure it for the book value or contract value, but imagine you need to repair a device. This can easily cost way more that those values given. This needs careful assessment and preparation as every device is a custom-built simulator and not easily replaceable. But also the operator needs to have proper liability insurance in place when the device is in the building so handle this point with extra care.
We recommend hiring a company that has experience on the type of simulator you intend to move. Best industry practise including proper documentation. A typical time frame depending on device type is 5 to 14 days when you look at the disassembly.
Proper packing (Sea and Road transports)
Road and seafreight transport are the normal. Airfreights will be mostly very expensive. As mentioned above especially with seafreight, water-proof sealing of the parts is key. In our experience this is often poorly done when a packing company has no experience.
Transport, Customs procedures and unpacking
Transport can be unspectacular and very spectacular!
We had seen very interesting cases in the last 15 years from fake police robbing the truck driver, to Russian customs ripping apart the crates and leaving the devices out in the rain, to water damage during standard transport and one of our customers simply interrupting the customs procedures resulting in long storage times at the customs with associated cost. I would consider this point as most sensitive and be aware that your shipping company and customs agents are on top of the problems all time.
Unpacking is a short one, it sucks and it leaves you with big amounts of waste you have to dispose of.
To best industry practises a reassembly should also be done in 5 to 14 days when everything is smooth. Be aware that you as operator have duties to fulfil that directly influence reassembly times and which can drive up the relocation cost. As examples you need to take care of air-conditioning system and interface, fire-extinguishing system preparation and ensure that electrical specifications and all fluids and gases are in place (e.g. for the motion system).
A power up generally requires skilled work force and an experienced engineer. Simply powering the device and off you go is a dream. Be aware that during power up things can fail and break and this may lead to a phase of 1 week to 4 weeks. Having spare parts in stock is also recommended – and they should checked thoroughly beforehand.
Testing to Baseline Reporting
After power up, testing and calibration is required to achieve same performance as before. Here your baseline report when done in detail will help you to ensure that nothing gets left behind.
Qualification and ready for training
This ties in with the baseline reporting as mostly during power up and calibration QTG tests are being rerun. According to new requirements QTG updates may be necessary.
And last but not least, Snag fixing may be required when the authority is accepting the device or the client as ready for training.
Pricing considerations and time frames:
We receive calls from clients who want a device up and running within 4 weeks. I´m sorry but this is impossible. For a standard relocation you should schedule between 2 and 4 months depending on whether it is on the same mainland or overseas. Also, you are at the mercy of the authorities to accept the device and have a slot for inspection. Pricing is a difficult one as you for a relocation depending on who is doing it, what is to be done and where it is done you may easily end up with higher six-figure numbers. Alone packing and shipping is taking up considerable costs and not only now during Covid times where wood is expensive and shipping rates are on the rise.
All in all, we advocate a qualified professional support or experienced company.
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Posted: April 12, 2022