The company that currently trains fixed-wing pilots at Fort Rucker has filed a protest in federal court in an attempt to prevent the training contract being awarded to another company.
FlightSafety International, which has trained pilots in Daleville and at the Dothan Regional Airport for many years, filed the complaint against the United States Government on March 15. It has also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction.
The complaint has been filed against the United States because the Department of Defense awards the contract for military training. The complaint and motion have been filed under seal because the company claims the documents include proprietary information.
CAE USA, a competing company, was initially awarded the contract for fixed wing training for the Army on June 3, 2015. FlightSafety and another company competing for the contract, URS, immediately filed protests. They were dismissed Sept. 11 of last year, according to the Government Accountability Office. The contract was apparently awarded again about two weeks ago.
The basis for the most recent protest is not publicly known, since the complaint was filed under seal.
FlightSafety issued a statement Wednesday in response to an inquiry from the Dothan Eagle.
“FlightSafety International is on contract through the end of September 2016 with the United States Army to perform fixed wing training at Dothan Regional Airport and at Daleville. FlightSafety has performed this training since 1986 with outstanding performance ratings from the Army. FlightSafety is protesting the March 2, 2016 contract award because we believe FlightSafety offers the most affordable and capable solution. We remain committed to supporting the U.S. Army with outstanding flight training services,” the FlightSafety statement said.
Although no official announcement has been made, the Dothan City Commission approved tax abatements for CAE to construct a training facility at the Dothan Regional Airport. The City of Dothan Planning Department has approved development plans for the facility and construction permits have been issued.
It is not yet known how long the protest process will take or if it will delay CAE’s progress toward building the Dothan Airport facility.
The lucrative fixed wing training contract has been highly competitive. FlightSafety was granted a one-year extension in October of last year to train fixed wing Army and Air Force personnel, giving CAE a one-year period to build infrastructure to assume the contract. According to documents related to the extension, the training consists of 140 students from the Army for the C-12 Aviator Qualification Course, 60 students for the C-12 Instructor Pilot Course, and 273 students for the C-12 refresher course. The contract also calls for the training of 44 Air Force students for the Aviator course, 22 for the Instructor course and 68 for the Refresher course. FlightSafety’s one-year extension had a value of $39 million.
Unless the protest is upheld, fixed wing training responsibilities will shift from FlightSafety to CAE. It is not yet known whether the shift will ultimately result in a net gain or net loss of jobs in the area.