Soon, thousands of helicopter pilots will visit this North Texas city for training

Airbus Helicopters simulator
Airbus Helicopters simulator

North Texas' reputation as a hub for aviation activity of all kinds is taking another step forward.

Airbus Helicopters has announced plans to build a $40 million pilot training center in Grand Prairie. Pilots and helicopter mechanics from around the world who wish to operate models such as the H145 and H175 will visit the area for roughly two weeks at a time to attend training.

The Airbus Helicopters Training Center in North America is scheduled to open in 2020 at Airbus Helicopters Inc.'s headquarters, 2701 N. Forum Drive in Grand Prairie.

“With this expansion, we will be able to support our customers’ needs for world class helicopter training in one convenient location,” said Christopher Emerson, Airbus Helicopters Inc. president and head of the North America region.

The center will dramatically expand Airbus' ability to train several thousand pilots, mechanics and other workers at a time — potentially two to three times as many as can be handled simultaneously today. Last year, about 1,500 people received Airbus training, according to a company press release.

The new center likely will create a nominal number of new permanent jobs, a company official said. But Grand Prairie and other surrounding cities likely will experience a noticeable bump in hotel room nights, car rentals and other visitor-related expenditures.

The facility is being built in a partnership with Helisim, a joint venture of Thales and Airbus Helicopters. Helisim will operate the simulation center, which will include the first H145 and H175 Level D simulators in North America.

The Reality H Simulators built by Thales will enable pilot training for two of Airbus Helicopters’ most high-tech commercial helicopters, which are becoming widely used in the United States and neighboring countries, the company said in a news release.

The facility will be designed for expansion to include H160 simulator training, once that aircraft is certified and in production.

Airbus has a worldwide workforce of about 129,000, including roughly 660 in North Texas. The company has had a presence in Grand Prairie for nearly 50 years.

The announcement of plans to build the training facility was made Tuesday during the HAI HELI-EXPO in Las Vegas.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson