We caught up with the very knowledgeable Ethan Willinger at the busy Redbird tent at Airventure, to discuss the many products Redbird has on the market now and their different niches. With a few exceptions, two only in reality, all aviation training devices are certified in the US as AATDs. Although many of their training devices have motion, Redbird has wisely chosen not to go through the much more complex and expensive official motion simulator certification process (Level A and up). This, of course, saves buyers a significant amount of money while maintaining the degree of legality that is useful for instrument proficiency and entry level instrument training. A good choice, considering the new wave of relaxation of existing rules. In the US, the FAA has basically made AATDs equivalent to aircraft, as far as proficiency is concerned. Redbird manufactures more devices than described here, including a line of model-specific aircraft, from PA28 to C182 and many more single and multi engine configurations with or without exact avionics as in the real aircraft. They also produce highly customized products for the military and other specific purposes.
AFSBI: So tell us about your – many – products.
Redbird (Ethan Willinger, Marketing Manager): So in terms of our range of products. We have many different desktop units starting from the Jay, which is our only device that is not certified, that we developed for the use of more so for STEM programs., also a lot of museums use that. It gets kids interested in flying and simulators. But it’s also good for pilots who are just trying to stay proficient. Then we have the TD and the TD2 which is our basic aviation training device, which is obviously very exciting right now because as of tomorrow [new FAA rules coming into effect] you’ll be able to maintain currency on it without an instructor overview and then from there from there up you go into the advanced aviation training devices. We have several different models that we develop to suit the needs for flight schools, for their specific facility, their training needs and different price points. So we have the FMX model, our flagship unit, which is a full motion device, a single yoke. But we also have the LD which is an open cockpit. It’s more cost effective unit for some flight schools. And the SD based on the same the same exact cockpit, but it’s a close cockpit. Then you have the MCX which is a dual control but again it’s based on the same unit. And then there’s also aircraft specific models that we offer some flight schools are interested in that.
AFSBI: So the matrix here is single and dual, and open and enclosed.
AFSBI: So what differentiates price points?
Redbird: Price points are different. Let’s start from the bottom, the LD which is just not motion. It has an open cockpit, that’s what we’re using here at Oshkosh at the Pilot Proficiency Center all week. That’s around $30,000. They’re all AATDs. They’re all in the same QAG [FAA’s Qualification Approval Guide] and FMX our flagship device that’s $65,000, without control loading. It goes a little bit up if you want control loading. The MX2 is similar. It’s a little bit cheaper but it’s for a more confined space. Right, so if you’re a flight school and you want the capabilities of an FMX but maybe don’t have the space or you rather to save $15,000 it’s a good solution for you. The MCX obviously, with the dual controls is a good solution if you want to be controlling simultaneously with the student.
AFSBI: And all of them can be converted between digital and analog?
Redbird: So in terms of your aircraft configuration it’s just an instrument overlay really. So it comes with one aircraft configuration all of them if you want to upgrade to different aircraft we’ll send you everything you need to do. Right now everything you need to do that. And it’s you know takes five minutes at a time screw out and in and you have a new model of aircraft.
AFSBI: So is this a feature most flight school use?
Redbird: It is definitely. To change it’s really it’s just an acrylic, it’s an overlay. It’s an overlay. OK so to recap the price range goes from the Jay, only non certified at about $3,300 to just under $90,000 for the MCX . But we also have simulators with cockpit specific to an aircraft that can be a little bit more expensive because we might be getting some of the avionics directly from the manufacturer and controls, like yoke and throttles directly too. So depending on that, but a lot of flight schools are using that if they need reconfigurable devices.
AFSBI: So that’s great. So as far as our technology I understand from a previous conversation that you are using P3D. From the viewpoint of flight model has this been a good choice?
Redbird: Yes. Yes, it’s been fantastic.
AFSBI: So let’s talk about support, what happens after the purchase? Installation, etc.
Redbird: So installation is taken care by us totally. So we will come to your facility. We’ll let me rewind there so if you get if you’re getting a desktop device that’s something we sent to you, right. It’s that simple, in a box. For our full motion devices are for just advanced aviation training devices, we’re going to come and install it at your facility, at home wherever you are. So we’re going to we’re going to come to your facility and take care of the entire installation and test everything obviously go over it and then we’ll do a training with your instructors if you like on the last day to prepare them to get them used to the simulator and answer any field questions they might have. We go over our applications as well and how to use the different different apps that go along with our simulator. For instance you know how can you control the simulator wirelessly. We have apps that allow you to do that. How can you set weather from your iPad. We show you how to work the instructor console. We tell you how to use a different monitor outside the simulator environment to show what’s going on inside for other students. We’ll show you how to do all that.
AFSBI: You make a good job of communicating what’s required for the installation. Space, power supply. Transport?
Redbird: We take it to you. It’s our team that’s going to drive a truck.
AFSBI: After the installation what happens if things go wrong?
Redbird: The cost of electricity is going to be your only operational cost in the first year of you using our sims. After that we have different service options for you to continue your service that will allow us to take care of your hardware to take care of the software. It’s not required. It’s certainly something we recommend. I don’t want to speak about other companies how their organization is set up but to my knowledge I mean we were one of the few that have in-house staff dedicated to support. Our support center is in Austin.
AFSBI: In which countries are you present?
Redbird: So we’re in 50 plus countries now. I think the only continent we’re not in is Antarctica.
AFSBI: I think with the long winters they can learn to fly…
Redbird: They could!
AFSBI: What would you estimate the number of units that are out there?
Redbird: We estimate that we probably have about 2,000 devices worldwide.
AFSBI: Thanks for your time and we’ll come back to get in the cockpit and fly the MCX.