Correction: A previous version of this story stated CAE provides training services for the AH-64 Apache helicopter. It only provides services for LUH-72A Lakota helicopters.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — CAE USA was given the goal to open a fixed-wing training facility for the U.S. Army in a year all while a lawsuit over the contract loomed in the background, but the company was able to meet that goal, holding its official opening last month.

And that opening is misleading because the school was already moving pilots through its courses well before March, receiving two aircraft and beginning flight operations in July 2016, CAE USA President Ray Duquette told Defense News in an interview just before the start of the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual summit.

CAE was contracted to build a new, 75,000-square-foot training facility from scratch at Dothan Regional Airport near Fort Rucker, Alabama, where the Army trains its entry-level, rotary-wing pilots.

The incumbent company — FlightSafety International — sued the Army over the decision in U.S. federal court. The company had held the contract for C-12 fixed-wing training since the 1980s. CAE unseated FlightSafety in June 2015.

The Army decided to take a second look at three competitors that submitted offerings and determined that CAE and FlightSafety were the highest-qualified candidates. Then the service ran a second assessment and determined CAE should win the contract in March 2016.

Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the Army, and FlightSafety did not appeal the decision, leaving CAE fully unencumbered to move forward.

CAE has rapidly built five of six simulators on contract for the LUH-72A Lakota helicopter, the new training aircraft to replace TH-67 helos at Fort Rucker.

CAE also won in December 2016 a $450 million U.S. Army contract to provide initial-entry, rotary-wing instructor support services for nine years.

But the incumbent on the contract — URS Federal — filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office over the award, and work is paused for CAE as the Army reassesses its decision, according to Duquette.

Just like in the case of the fixed-wing training contract, CAE will respond to further questions from the Army during its assessment and wait for the Army to determine whether it made the right decision, he said.

"They are going to take some corrective action, we will respond to that and then they will make a final decision, but I have no timing on when that will occur," Duquette said.

The Dothan flight school is already averaging 55 students in nine classes at any given time on a daily basis, Duquette said. The school has already completed seven classes since the start of live training in the middle of February, he added.

On average, the school expects to certify more than 600 pilots a year — 450 Army C-12 aviators and another 150 U.S. Air Force C-12 pilots. The Air Force is using the school for recurrent and refresher training only.

CAE is using Grob 120TP aircraft to help transition Army helicopter pilots that are coming from using a stick and collective to fly. The Grob aircraft has a stick and throttle, making for a smooth and incremental transition. Then the pilot is trained in a C-12 using a stick and yoke.

On the flight simulation side, CAE has used a unique approach to organizing simulators. Under the contract, CAE has built two flight simulators along with two unique motion platforms with the capability to roll on and off different aircraft cockpits, according to Duquette. The company calls these "motherships."

Duquette said CAE is now hoping to expand the program and bring in other customers that require such training.

"We do have capacity to expand, there is no question about that," he said. "We see expansion mainly in support of international customers that desire similar curriculum and training that the U.S. Army gets. ... We see a potential of receiving [foreign military sales] through the program."

The company also has further plans under consideration to expand not only with additional aircraft but different types of aircraft depending on the needs of the customer, Duquette said. "We have ramp space and hangar space, and we have the classroom space to facilitate that training."