First Person: FlightSafety International Expands Operations in Familiar Territory
Bruce Whitman , President & CEO, FlightSafety International, Inc. (November 2011)
Can you provide a brief overview of FlightSafety International?
Whitman: FlightSafety International is the world's premier professional aviation training company and supplier of flight simulators, visual systems, and displays to commercial, government, and military organizations, having manufactured 625 full flight simulators since 1978. These are used in the more than a million hours of training our company provides each year to over 75,000 pilots, technicians, and other aviation professionals from 154 countries and independent territories. We operate the world's largest fleet of advanced full flight simulators at Learning Centers and training locations in Asia, Europe, North and South America, the Pacific Rim, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
I understand the company has been designing and manufacturing flight simulators in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, since 1978. How did the decision to recently expand and open a new facility there come about?
Whitman: Demand for our training and simulation products has grown to the point that additional capacity was required. We conducted a search that included the surrounding area and states. After full evaluation, the city of Broken Arrow and the state of Oklahoma were able to provide land, incentives, and tax credits that were deemed to be best for us. The ability to stay in the area was the least disruptive to our teammates and supply chain. Therefore, we made the decision to expand our facility in Broken Arrow. We are very pleased to be there.
What operations will occur at the new facility and how were they incorporated into the building's design?
Whitman: The same basic operations have been transferred to the new location. These include data acquisition, engineering design, software model development, supply-chain management, program management, product hardware and software integration, visual system integration, product testing, and product support.
Were specific energy-efficiency measures adopted in the new Oklahoma facility?
Whitman: Yes. FlightSafety incorporated energy efficiencies for both lighting and HVAC, which allow us to qualify for the Energy 179D deduction.
What type of help with the project did the state and local community provide? Were specific incentives offered?
Whitman: FlightSafety was provided with special incentives from the City of Broken Arrow, which include a long-term property lease and cash incentives that were approved by a vote of the city council.
How are the company's labor force requirements being satisfied in Broken Arrow?
Whitman: We have built an outstanding engineering, manufacturing, technical, and support departments labor force. FlightSafety continues to attract the skill sets we need from the educational system in and around Oklahoma. Oklahoma has a large aerospace industry. Therefore, the university system produces strong engineering and technical skills in support of the industry, while the vocational education system provides a skilled work force to meet our needs.
How do FlightSafety's St. Louis and Austin
operations fit into the company's overall mission?
Whitman: St. Louis is the headquarters for FlightSafety's Visual Systems, which continues to be one of the primary discriminators for flight training devices. FlightSafety Displays in Austin produces training device Optical Display Systems utilizing glass displays. This technology has significant advantages over the existing products in terms of field of view, fidelity, and life cycle cost. All the organizations together support our mission of providing the highest fidelity flight and mission training devices in the industry.
I've read that the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation is an organization that is very dear to you. Can you tell us about the foundation's goals and its recently minted commemorative coin?
Whitman: I am very proud and honored to serve as the co-chairman of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which serves to perpetuate the Medal of Honor's legacy through outreach and collaborative efforts.
It also promotes American values and the qualities of courage, sacrifice, and patriotism through increased awareness, education, behavior, and example.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's signing legislation to establish the Medal of Honor, which is the highest award for valor that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the United States Armed Forces. It may only be presented to a person, who at risk of his or her life, went above and beyond the call of duty. To commemorate the Medal of Honor's establishment, Congress directed the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue two very special coins: a silver dollar and a $5 gold coin. The coins will be a constant reminder of those who serve to protect our freedoms at home and around the world, and of our greatest heroes, Americas' Medal of Honor recipients.
A limited number of these coins are available from the U.S. Mint. The proceeds of these sales will support the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation's educational programs.