CAE Family Day 2017


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A real highlight of the plant tour for CAE Family Day 2017 was getting a close look (even a visit to the flight deck) of one of the world’s most advanced flight simulators. Here are a couple of scenes from this year’s Family Day, held on September 23. Nearest is a “sim” (full flight simulator — FFS) for the new CSeries jetliner – it’s almost ready for delivery. Then, a display explaining “Methods” – how parts get machined, completed, inspected, delivered down the line for assembly, etc.

Each year CAE throws its doors wide open, inviting in its huge extended family for “Family Day”. This is a truly wonderful event. This year alone, some 10,000 attended, all welcomed to tour through almost every nook and cranny in CAE’s vast facility on the edge of Dorval airport. Moms, dads, children, grandparents, retirees and friends all enjoyed every minute from early morning to late afternoon. Entering at the front door, the crowds were guided towards the shop floor, “where it all begins” – the process of manufacturing a flight simulator. The tour kicked off at the “raw materials” start line. Nothing here looks anything like a flight simulator. It’s just piles of materiel and all sorts of machines and processes going on. For Family Day actual production was shut down, but at each work station were volunteers to explain or demonstrate what goes on – milling or plating a part, cutting or assembling sheet metal, installing wiring, etc. There were line-ups all along the way and great fun for the little ones — clown acts, acrobats, etc. As the crowd moved along, people could see how an actual flight simulator takes shape.
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A display of flight simulator motion system hydraulic components. Since CAE’s first motion system-equipped flight simulators in the 1960s-70s (early DC-8, 747, etc.), “sims” were powered by heavy-duty hydraulic systems. Periodically, there was talk of using electric power, but no such system could handle the heavy installations and punishing cycles. In the 1990s, however, R&D led to lighter installations and improved electrical power systems. These have been perfected and now are universally used. However, CAE continues supporting older hydraulically-powered “sims”, many of which remain in use around the world. See Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story for the history of how technology has evolved at CAE over the last 70 years. Then, a view showing CAE family members checking out an electronics equipment display.

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All of a sudden, this “aviator” from some other planet dropped from the sky to stir things up among the families.

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This station demonstrated the key phase whereby a new flight simulator gets “wired up”. Miles of electrical wiring are needed to bring a big FFS up to operating standards.

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As I walked through CAE’s main plant, the nose of a Beech 350 King Air (formerly C-FRLD of Carson Air) caught my eye. Sitting there, it looked like scrap metal. Before long, however, C-FRLD will be re-manufactured as an “all new” flight training device. In an earlier such case, CAE converted a MiG-29 jet fighter ready for scrap into a new MiG-29 flight simulator for the Malaysian Air Force. Using a discarded airframe is a practical solution vs paying for an expensive new factory-made airframe, or building up a new facsimile structure in the CAE shops. While the typical new CAE FFS, does start with an all-new cockpit frame manufactured in the sheet metal department, for “one off” devices such as the King Air, renovating a discarded airframe makes a lot of sense, especially to the customer.

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Here’s another example of the same practical solution. On the right is a well-worn actual Airbus A320 throttle quadrant. The A320 FFS cockpit certainly needs one of these, but a new one is cost-prohibitive. On the left is how the restored component looks.

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Airbus EC135 helicopter flight simulators near completion on the shop floor at CAE.

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The cockpit structure of a new airliner FFS takes shape in CAE’s sheet metal department.

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Super-thin, super-reflective Mylar is essential to any CAE FFS visual system. Notice in this Family Day display how magnificently the ceiling is reflected in the Mylar. In early days, CAE depended on outside suppliers for FFS visual system. Through years of R&D, however, CAE attained world-class status manufacturing its own visual systems.

Finally, at the top end of the vast manufacturing facility, several complete full slight simulators were sitting ready for customer acceptance.


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Pilots soon will be training on the CSeries FFS. Then, a CAE MD-11 FFS manufactured ages ago in 1992 for the UPS fleet. Presently, it is back for complete modernization. Just for fun, for Family Day it was programmed to “dance” to some popular tunes. Originally with a hydraulically powered motion system, this FFS has been retrofitted with electric power.

Moving from the production bays, families passed through a hall of CAE history with displays and activities to interest anyone. I was fascinated to see some early products about which I had only heard, while researching the history of CAE a few years ago. Included were priceless artifacts from CAE’s “Consumer Products” department of the early 1950s – Dumont/CAE television sets, high end sound systems of the day including a rare radios/record player combo, a portable radio, even one of CAE’s battery-powered portable scintillometers, used by prospectors searching for minerals.


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“Ancient history” – a beautifully-crafted 1950-vintage home entertainment system – the CAE “Sonoramic Mark II” radio-record player combination. While watching one little guy scrutinizing this equipment, I saw him look down at the turntable and happily conclude, “Oh, it’s a CD player.” Then, a close-up showing the tuning panel. Third, attached to the unit’s back is its authenticating data plate. Too bad that I didn’t have these photos for The CAE Story, but it’s fun to be able to add them now as blog images.

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In Montreal in the early 1950s,CAE was assembling DuMont TV sets (from that New York company’s high-end line). CAE initially sold lots of these, but in the long run could not compete with such big producers as RCA, or such entrenched retailers as Eatons. Next … a 1950s CAE “Lodestar” portable radio and one of CAE’s portable scintillometers used in the search for metals. See The CAE Story for more about CAE’s consumer products years.

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Family Day along the CAE “Museum” corridor with beautiful 1950s CAE/Dumont TV sets in the background. Then, Larry Milberry autographing a copy of The CAE Story. Finally, CAE retirees Richard Valiquette and Hani Macramalla (a long-serving CAE Electronics Ltd. executive), Larry again, plus Robert, an officer with 785 Air Cadet Squadron visiting from St-Eustache, Quebec. (CAE & Andrea Marcoux photos)

From the history displays came more kids activities and, downstairs, where there were outstanding displays of aerospace training equipment, and demonstrations of CAE Healthcare’s latest medical training aids. CAE Family Day 2017 was a real summer highlight for anyone lucky enough to be there.


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Much advanced pilot and technical training now can be done using programs loaded into laptops. CAE has been on the leading edge of this type of training.

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One of the human-like training aids marketed by CAE Healthcare.

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Being CAE’s 70 th anniversary, there’s a big emphasis on company heritage. One important recent event was naming a street (with appropriate plaque) not far from the plant to honour CAE founder, Kenneth R. Patrick. In this photo taken at the naming are (on the left) CAE V-P Communications, Hélène Gagnon, City of St-Laurent Mayor DeSousa and CAE President Marc Parent. Far right is Ken Patrick’s grandson, Glenn. Then, a 2017 Family Day CAE volunteer shows off the Ken Patrick street sign.

Anyone with a connection to CAE will want a copy of Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story. To get you copy autographed by the author send $80.85 to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto ON M4E3B6; or send that amount by PayPal to

For more details about the book (and to order a copy on line) check out the rest of right here. There lots more CAE history and info if you scroll back (all the way to 2015, if you have the time).

3 responses to “CAE Family Day 2017

  1. Excellent coverage. Thanks Larry.

  2. Francois Lapointe

    Hi, I`m a proud owner of a “Sonoramic Mark II” radio-record player combination model SP-11 serial 517 in working condition and I would like to know more about it. If someone can help me to learn about it would be very appreciated.

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