The family-owned company traces its roots to patriarch Rudy Frasca’s personal visits to flight schools and colleges with a Model 100 flight simulator in tow. He’d labor through the day and night to install the coffin-shaped black box and then demonstrate its capability. The strategy cemented the company’s place in the flight training environment and led to a global business that counts civilian and military aviation clients in the United States, Australia, China, Germany, Japan, and elsewhere. Though the pilot, researcher, and engineer died in May, his children have continued a customer-focused approach to innovation.
When COVID-19 precautions eliminated airshows, trade shows, and other face-to-face gatherings, the company decided to dig into the archives for inspiration. Marketing Manager Peggy Frasca Prichard (Rudy’s daughter) said that employees wanted to demonstrate the reconfigurable training device (RTD) technology so they decided on a grassroots road trip to take the device to the public, rather than the other way around.
“Dad used to drive around” with flight simulators, “so we said, ‘Let’s go get the trailer on the road and bring this to the people.’”
The first leg of the Frasca “RTD On the Road” show has proved to be a popular attraction with sales representative Juan Velasquez making his way through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. The simulator he’s towing behind a Chevrolet Suburban can be reconfigured to mimic a Cessna 172, a Piper Archer or Seminole, or a Diamond DA40.
“He’ll go out for a couple of weeks, drive around a region and leave it somewhere” for others to try out, then retrieve the flight training device trailer and transport it to another city, Prichard explained. “Students are getting in and flying the RTD with their instructors and everyone is all excited about it. We have masks, hand sanitizer, and it’s all COVID safe. People love it.”
A daytrip from Frasca’s Urbana, Illinois, headquarters to Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, served as a September shakeout run before the first big trip through the Central Southwest. An interactive contact form helps direct Velasquez to potential stops, and he files social media reports to build a buzz about where he’s been and where he’s going next. “Last week someone from Georgetown, Texas, filled out the online form and it’s halfway between Waco and San Marcos, so we worked out a meeting” for December.
Velasquez has visited several flight instruction facilities at general aviation airports, schools, and colleges. He said people are eager to see the traveling simulator and to try it out for themselves. At Oklahoma State University he taught one student and one flight instructor the reconfigurable machine’s basics and then dropped it off in front of the flight operations center for three weeks to let other students and instructors experience the technology.
“The controls are similar to their training aircraft and it’s very realistic” even though the spring-loaded yoke is linked to a computer instead of attached to an aircraft’s control surfaces by cables, pulleys, or pushrods, he explained. Users are “excited and impressed when they enter the trailer,” Velasquez said by phone. “The big thing is the [Garmin] G1000. I tell them to ‘use it like you would in an actual airplane.’” He said people are captivated by the “smooth and realistic” simulator response and the system’s durability. “The entire rig is made of metal, so it’s designed to be used every day” in a rugged training environment.