Some thoughts from the International Flight Crew Training Conference

Mike Miller | 03.10.2019

With the full breadth of the aviation marketplace represented at the International Flight Crew Training Conference, organised and hosted by the Royal Aeronautical Society, including stakeholders from regulators, airlines and ATOs, the conversations focused on coping with the transition to the digital age including new aircraft and technologies, coupled with the changing air environment as air traffic is now travelling much closer due to consumer demand plus the addition of drones to add to the mix. The benefits to increased technology provide greater flexibility and operability but is not without its complexities requiring collaboration across all parties to ensure the best future outcomes from training.

We are all aware of the global shortage and need for more qualified Pilots coming though training, but how do we as an industry ensure that we are continuing to remain current and relevant to attract the new generation? With the ‘buzz society’ more pressured, there are a lot more considerations for all involved in Pilot training and assessment to ensure that it continues to be an appealing and attainable career choice. The challenges remain around repaid growth particularly in China where the market is growing at 1 plane per day and the new generation of Pilots with differing attitudes, coupled with the changing role of Pilots and the need to address dealing with boredom in the cockpit, has led to the existing Pilot competencies being viewed as too general and not enough focus is being placed on performance evaluation.

In recent years it has been widely acknowledged there is a gap between Pilot training and the competencies required by the airlines to be fully equipped for the modern flight-deck, with some figures quoting 50% of newly qualified pilots as being unemployable. In particular, First Officers not being properly prepared to deal with abnormal or emergency situations on-board and the ability to find knowledge quickly and use it. Essential familiarity with system architecture was also found to be absent in recent training needs analysis by a European Airline. The sector is still largely following classic training methods and airlines are tasked with teaching trainees to become airline pilots after completion of ab-initio training. To combat this the industry is now looking to Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBTA) as a future means of narrowing this gap to ensure that newly qualified Pilots are ready to fly in the operational environments they are presented with when they commence line flying. It is not just newly qualified Pilots where this is applicable, as regulatory requirements were not seen to focus on crew member development, command training structure, performance evaluation, specific competencies and competency enhancement techniques.

With the new IATA Guidance Material for Pilot Aptitude Testing published in April 2019 (read more here) times are changing and an increased focus on CBTA is actively encouraged. CBTA is designed to provide trained Pilots with more skills and awareness of the flight deck and ever-changing operational environment. This new approach can make the most of the latest digital training methods and opportunities available through blended training and assessment.

ICAO's Annex 1 promotes the use of CBTA training, with an EASA strategy and framework for the introduction of this approach across regulated training to be implemented by November 2020. A great deal of the discussion around this was the Area 100 Knowledge Skills & Attitude (KSA) approach – ‘Tell Me, Teach Me or Involve Me’ with the syllabus objectives to firmly embed CBA training in ground school. Understanding the need to involve cadets to help them learn and immersing them in different environments and situations, is a new approach designed to be an effective bridge between the traditional theoretical knowledge training followed by flight training, uniting the training elements and developing the “thinking Pilot”. ICAO Annex 1 Personnel training is not limited to just Pilots but also covers the Flight Engineers, Flight Navigators, Air Traffic Controllers, Aeronautical station operators, Maintenance Technicians and Flight Dispatchers.

To help support this, it is vital that the assessments used are designed to give the student the ability to demonstrate the competencies that they have acquired. Assimilated knowledge across the different subject areas is vital to preparation for the real-world flight deck, including recognition and focus around the non-technical skills required for ab-initios’ development.

Symbiotics are excited to explore this developing approach, looking into different solutions and methods to assess and evidence learning of assimilated knowledge across different subjects to support our aviation clients. What do you think is the best way forward in these exciting new times? We would love to hear your thoughts – contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk to share your thoughts about the modernisation of flight crew training.