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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Heli-Expo Show Day: Frasca Marks 50th Year

COULD RUDY FRASCA HAVE IMAGined where the helicopter training market would go in half a century?

The Urbana, Ill.-based company comes to Houston marking its 50th anniversary, a milestone it will be celebrating here at Heli-Expo and throughout the coming year.

"I’m extremely proud of where we are today and the positive impact we’ve had on flight training worldwide," said Frasca, founder and president of the company."

The milestone comes as the appetite among many commercial and civil operators is growing. Offshore oil and gas companies have adopted standards for streamlined, more rigorous programs to train the pilots that fly their multi-engine helicopters. EMS operators are exploring the value of scenario-based flight training, as is the airborne law enforcement community. The industry, through the International Helicopter Safety Team, has undertaken an effort to slash its accident rate 80 percent by 2016. Improved and enhanced training will be central to that effort.

All of that promises a more robust training market than experts would have projected even a decade ago, let alone five decades ago.

Rudy Frasca soloed shortly after he began taking flying lessons at the age of 14. He served as a U.S. Navy flight instructor in the early 1950s, teaching pilots on early Link trainers. He later studied aviation psychology at the University of Illinois, where he honed his interest in flight simulation and improving the state of the art.

In 1958, he built his first flight simulator in his garage, founding Frasca Aviation. The company, one of the few privately owned simulator manufacturers, is owned and managed by three generations of the Frasca family. Rudy’s son, John, is vice president, and his brothers Tom, Bob, and David and sisters Mary, Peggy, and Liz are involved in marketing, management, production, finance, and other areas.

Over the past 50 years, the company has had many technological breakthroughs, including the transition from analog to digital simulation and development of electric control-loading to improve control feel. In 1985, Frasca introduced it first visual system. In 2007, it delivered the first Level 6 helicopter flight training device (FTD).

Within the last 15 years, Frasca International has developed a significant custom simulator market. Helicopter FTDs have become an extremely important product line for Frasca.

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