Demand for more pilots and technicians in Latin America, Africa and Europe led Boeing to locate its newest 787 Dreamliner training center in South Florida, company officials said Thursday at the launch of the $160 million facility.
The location adjacent to Miami International Airport is more convenient for airlines in those regions and allows them to cut training costs, said Sherry Carbary, vice president of Boeing Flight Services. She said the company expects about 70 percent of the 5,000 people trained at the center each year will come from outside North America.
Miami, she said, has become "an international hub for aviation training. That's why we're here."
The Miami center joins other Boeing Dreamliner training centers in London, Singapore and Shanghai. It is the largest of the four, with 17 flight simulators total including two for Dreamliners, and creates 100 new jobs. That latter figure drew the attention of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who is making job creation a cornerstone of his term in office — and his 2014 re-election campaign.
"We're here for one reason: jobs," Scott told an audience of Boeing employees, local political leaders and news media. "Having the (Boeing) corporate headquarters here would also be nice."
Scott said he took a turn in one of the Dreamliner simulators, helping with two aircraft landings.
"That was fun. I didn't crash it," the governor said.
All told, Boeing operates 20 aircraft training centers around the world.
The Dreamliner now comes in three models and appears to have recovered from problems with ion-lithium batteries that tended to overheat and sometimes caught fire. The entire fleet was grounded for about four months earlier this year to be retrofitted, and Carbary said the company believes the issues have been addressed.
"I'm confident in the 787 program. Every program has issues in the beginning," she said. "We'll get through this and I hope everybody gets to fly on a 787."
Also Thursday, Boeing released an aviation industry forecast predicting that by 2032 nearly 500,000 new commercial airline pilots and 556,000 maintenance technicians will be needed worldwide. The greatest demand for pilots is expected in the Asia-Pacific region, with more than 192,000, followed by more than 99,000 needed in Europe, according to the forecast.
There is likely to be less demand in the future for technicians because the introduction of more efficient and reliable aircraft will mean greater intervals between maintenance checks. But the Boeing forecast still said about 28,000 new technicians per year will be required globally over the next 20 years.