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Meeting the Growing Demand for Flight Simulators

With a growing global need for qualified commercial airline pilots and an increased emphasis on safety and skill enhancement to navigate complex airspaces, the Full Flight Simulator (FFS) market shows strong growth potential for various reasons. But the current demand for future pilots is only one part.


With a very large proportion of current pilots soon reaching retirement age, it has been widely reported that a considerable gap in expertise will need to be filled, also resulting in rising demand for FFS systems.


Airlines and aviation training centres recognise the pivotal role of simulators in the pilot training process. These sophisticated systems offer a safe and controlled environment for trainees to practice various flight scenarios, ranging from routine operations to emergency procedures, without the inherent risks associated with actual flight. By leveraging these technologies, organisations can streamline training processes, reduce costs, and enhance overall flight safety.


Recent advancements in technology, especially the smooth integration of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into FFS are also changing how pilot training is being delivered. By incorporating an extensive scope of hyper-realistic scenarios, training programs can be tailored to simulate a wide range of environmental conditions and aircraft configurations, further enhancing the effectiveness of pilot training.

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What's driving flight simulator demand?

The chart below, sourced from aviation data provided by IBA Insight, shows a noticeable uptick in projected aircraft deliveries, indicating a parallel need for more pilots. As airlines and aviation training centres look to address the pilot shortage challenge, FFS manufacturers will need to increase their production to keep up with this expected demand.


Source: IBA Insight


Outside of North America, IBA anticipates that the Middle East will be the first to face the expected shortage's impact. This prediction is based on the anticipated rapid rise in air travel demand in the coming years. As airlines in the region expand their fleets to accommodate increasing passenger traffic, the demand for qualified pilots and state-of-the-art training facilities will continue to rise, driving further growth in the FFS market.


The demand for simulator slots is expected to remain high for the foreseeable future, primarily driven by the transition to newer aircraft models such as the 737 MAX and A320neo replacing the older fleet across the globe. This transition necessitates comprehensive training for pilots, resulting in a sustained need for FFS to facilitate effective training programs.


Meanwhile, China is projected to overtake the United States with the highest number of air traffic passengers in the near future. This surge in air travel demand underscores the importance of investing in flight simulation technology to support the training requirements of a burgeoning aviation market. Elsewhere in Asia, developing economies such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam are also expected to see growth in air travel. One particular country to point out is India, where the expanding middle class is driving air travel growth with the influx of budget airlines such as IndiGo and SpiceJet.



Looking ahead, the future advancement of transportation aircraft such as electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles, will also influence the aviation landscape. Major flight simulator manufacturers have already begun collaborating with eVTOL OEMs, signalling a strategic move towards adapting to emerging technologies. This collaboration is likely to drive innovation and contribute to increased production of flight simulators tailored to meet training needs in the years ahead.

Who are the main players in the flight simulator market?

Within the FFS industry, CAE maintains its formidable presence, commanding an impressive market share of approximately 70% to 80% in the commercial aviation sector. This dominance underscores CAE's significant influence and leadership within the realm of flight simulation, solidifying its position as the leading provider of FFS solutions for commercial airlines worldwide. The two primary competitors to CAE are Flight Safety International and L3Harris, as well as several other smaller players.


Flight simulators demand substantial financial investment due to the incorporation of advanced technology such as realistic visuals and intricate electronic systems. Moreover, these systems require regular updates to stay current with evolving standards, further driving up investment expenses. With OEMs like Boeing and Airbus increasing licence and data package fees imposed on flight simulator manufacturers, there are significant barriers to entry into the FFS sector. Furthermore, these assets are built to stay where they are and thus have a very limited market for secondary trading.



Despite these challenges, flight simulators still pose an attractive asset class, with operators often entering into long-term contracts for use. Compliance with aviation authorities such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), instils confidence in customers that FFS and simulator training programs adhere to high standards for safety.

How can we help?

IBA provides award-winning aviation valuation services for various FFS models where popular options for the 737 MAX FFS can command prices anywhere from $10 million to $15 million, depending on individual specifications. With proper maintenance in accordance with the OEM’s manuals and good maintenance practices subject to the availability of spare parts, flight simulators are capable of remaining in service for upwards of 30 years, ensuring the longevity and continued effectiveness in pilot training programs.

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