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APATS – Helping Guide Asian Growth

3–5 September 2007 • AsiaWorld-Expo • Hong Kong, SAR China

CAT’s Asia Pacific Airline Training Symposium was recently held in Hong Kong. Chris Long reports.

Credit: David Malley/Halldale Media

Norman Lo, Director General of the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) of Hong Kong, delivered the keynote address to the Asia Pacific Airline Training Symposium, held in conjunction with the Asian Aerospace event in Hong Kong. He clearly illustrated his belief that an effective aviation system is supported by four critical pillars – airlines, airports, maintenance and air traffic management. Weakness in any of these leads to instability in the system as a whole, and the training to ensure competencies in these areas must encompass aviation service providers, regulatory authorities and accident investigation authorities. We need a steady supply of high quality aviation professionals to support the industry and the present high rate of growth. He suggested that to achieve this supply there is a need for cooperation within the Asia Pacific region to utilise training resources and to share safety knowledge.

This principle of sharing knowledge came across clearly throughout the symposium, where the questions and answer periods after each session showed vigorous interaction between the speakers and delegates, who included representatives from many airlines. These discussions frequently carried over into the breaks as the participants sought more complete answers.

The regulators updated the progress in implementing the latest regulatory changes, in particular in the establishment of the approval and oversight processes in support of the aviation English proficiency standards. Another regulator from the Korean authority expressed his own views on how to build and, importantly, update competencies within the instructor pool as technologies and procedures evolve, particularly with regard to current wisdom on CRM behaviours. The complex task of selecting and training aircraft captains and instructors created a lot of interest. It is an issue which is getting a condiderable attention as the strong growth in the region is creating comparatively rapid progression to the left hand seat and so the training of new pilots and captains has vastly increased the demand for instructors. There was absolute agreement that there are both specific skill sets and, critically, behaviour patterns, which are required of pilots training to be captains or instructors, and that robust training processes are essential to prepare pilots for these new roles.

The selection and retention of pilots for the low cost and smaller regional carriers at a time when the drift towards the heavy metal of the larger airlines is problematic was also addressed. For both these classes of carriers the solution of simply paying much higher wages is unrealistic – the better way usually acknowledges that creating an attractive  lifestyle or ensuring a transparent carrier pattern can go a long way to retaining pilots and thus reducing the training bill to a manageable level. Testing for qualification in the Aviation English language requirements is a major issue, with the regulation coming into force in March 2008. Failure of existing crews to meet the standard must be managed very carefully, as there would be significant impact on those crews and the airline operation. One key element is to understand the reasons why any pilot who is apparently presently working effectively in the English language on a day-to-day basis does not achieve Level 4. Is the root cause poor English or is it that the potentially artificial environment of the test is not representative of the real world?  Two major regional carriers offered some best practice solutions to the testing process, both for existing crews and for new recruits. Multi-crew Pilot Licence (MPL) training has been a recurring them over the last few years, and some students in the region have already started training under that pattern. It is too early to make definitive conclusions yet, but the regulators, airlines and FTOs involved are monitoring the progress very carefully, and will share conclusions with the industry as the course unfolds.

The Maintenance programme at APATS provoked some lively debate, and there was a significant overlap from the pilot stream on the subject of distance learning – matching the tools to the task is key. Regulatory changes were addressed, and the impact of the new range of training technologies and tools was thoroughly debated – there is greater optimism that finally maintenance training is getting the proper tools for the job; the question is more what form of training is now necessary. Given that the present and future references for maintenance tasks are no longer book-based but are now portable tools, should we concentrate simply on how to operate those tools effectively rather than trying to learn procedures by rote?


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