SA Airlink is an international flight training facility for pilots that airline Airlink created in conjunction with the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer. Embraer has brought in full flight simulators to train international pilots on their aircraft at the facility.
The brief to the architect was to design an internationally rated flight training facility that could compete with similar training centres across the globe. The architect was sent to other international training facilities to obtain information about what world-class training centres offered pilots and their goal was to design a flagship facility that could be marketed to international companies and pilots. The flight training facility had to include practical training areas, classrooms, full flight simulator facilities, a new departure lounge for SA Airlink’s flight operations, as well as a heavy maintenance facility where maintenance on aircraft could be done.
Certain parts of the training facility were envisaged in steel from the start. The architect’s inspiration for the facility’s design was aircraft fuser lodges, which led to a design that included unique, curving shapes of the building. The shapes and cladding couldn’t have been achieved without the use of steel.
The simulator bay of SA Airlink has curved I beam. The design team tried to roll the six sections but rolling led to buckling. To overcome this challenge, the contractor bent and welded the beams together to obtain the desired curved shapes.
The office sections of the facility have very high shopfronts. To frame these areas, the team installed 254 columns with beams, which contributed to the modern, industrial look and feel that the architect wanted to achieve. There are also two hollow tube columns with expertly designed knuckle joints at the front of the building that simulates aircraft landing gear.
A lot of consideration was paid to the insulation of the building. Being situated next to one of the runways, the design team had to achieve a certain decibel rating to ensure a good acoustic environment for trainers and pilots. The Isoboard was installed before the cladding.
Another challenge related to the cladding process was to minimise the clashing of services during installation. Due to the curved shape of the building, the cladding had to be rolled to a specific profile that had two different radius cranks, one of which is quite sharp.
The fabricators, engineer, contractors and steel contractors worked closely with the architects from the start. There were many services that had to go into the facility – including specific air conditioning ducts and mechanical elements – and coordinating the project execution required a team effort. The result is a world-class facility to train pilots with state-of-the-art equipment.