The choice of training airplane appeared to play a large part in the government’s decision to award Army fixed wing flight training to a new provider, according to recently released documents.
The Department of Defense awarded, for a second time, the government contract for fixed wing flight training to CAE USA on March 2. The previous contract holder, FlightSafety International, has filed a second bid protest that is currently being heard in the Court of Federal Claims. FlightSafety claims the government ventured away from its standards issued in the contract bid requirements when it awarded the contract to CAE, according to FlightSafety’s 209-page complaint, which was made public recently, though it is heavily redacted.
“The agency’s second award decision reveals substantial errors and a seriously flawed evaluation process,” FlightSafety claims in its complaint.
In an accompanying memorandum, FlightSafety claims the contract award is “so obviously erroneous that it reveals something else must be going on here.”
CAE announced recently it is moving forward with constructing a new training facility at Dothan Regional Airport and will employ about 100 when the contract is fully operational.
The U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command graded the bid proposals of FlightSafety and CAE (a third company also submitted a proposal, but was eliminated earlier in the process) in eight separate categories, including facilities, quality control, management, staffing, aircraft and simulators, past performance, small business participation and price. FlightSafety and CAE graded similar in practically all of the categories, but CAE’s decision to use a Grob G120TP military trainer airplane received significantly higher marks than FlightSafety’s decision to use a Piper M500 and Extra 330LX.
Although both companies received a grade of “outstanding” for the aircraft category, each company was assessed a number of strengths and weaknesses within the category. CAE received 14 strengths and no weaknesses in the aircraft category, while FlightSafety received four strengths and one weakness.
CAE also received 11 strengths and no weaknesses in the staffing, recruitment and retention category while FlightSafety received three strengths and one weakness.
Much of FlightSafety’s complaint centers on the assessment of the aircraft. The aircraft will be used to train student pilots, who will eventually fly the Army’s C-12, an eight-seat, 1970s model Beechcraft aircraft with a yoke control. It is used for passenger and light cargo duties. Essentially, FSI claims it can handle the majority of the training requirements with the Piper M500, then use the Extra 330LX for the portion of training in which the pilot must rescue the aircraft from certain trouble situations.
“The Grob G120TP … does not mimic the operational or flight characteristics of the larger passenger and light cargo C-12 aircraft for which the Agency needs pilot training services,” FlightSafety states in a non-redacted portion of its complaint. “Highly aerobatic aircraft, like the Grob G120TP, do not handle like docile passenger and light cargo airplanes, such as the C-12 and the Piper M500.”
CAE, however, contends FlightSafety’s latest complaint amounts to sour grapes, and that the Army’s evaluation of the aircraft should stand.
“FSI (FlightSafety International) has not demonstrated any likelihood of succeeding on the merits of this argument, as the Army’s reasonable technical evaluation is entitled to deference, and is certainly more informed than mere allegations by FSI’s counsel,” CAE states in a non-redacted portion of its response to the latest complaint. “These unsupported allegations by counsel fail to show that the Army acted arbitrarily in concluding that CAE’s Grob 120TB aircraft satisfied the Army’s needs better than FSI’s Piper M500. FSI has provided the Court with no basis upon which to conclude that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its argument about Army’s technical judgments concerning aircraft similarity, suitability, or desirability.”
The source selection document released to the public redacts almost all of the specific information the awarding agency used in selecting CAE because the information has been deemed proprietary, but one unredacted portion does indicate the awarding agency believes the Grob is superior.
“Contrasting the Grob with FSI’s proposed aircraft, FSI offers far less,” the source selection documents states.
The document also states the award entailed more than aircraft selection.
“…this is not just a comparison of the number of strengths of one offeror versus the strengths of the other offeror. There are real differences between the programs offered by FSI and CAE, and CAE offers the most coherent and comprehensive training program,” the source selection document states.
The document was prepared by Russell B. Hall, deputy to the commanding general, United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence.