APATS 2008

APATS 2008

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Delegates Air Views On Raising The Safety Bar

16–17 September 2008 • Shangri-La Hotel • Bangkok • Thailand

APATS 2008 was staged recently in Bangkok and was the biggest event so far in this series. The conference theme, “Training for Safety in a Commercial World”, attracted some 260 attendees, including representatives from 35 airlines. Chris Long reports.

Credit: David Malley/Halldale Media

Delegates heard some very clear and strongly held views on the subject of training for safety, delivered by a wide-ranging pool of regional and global experts. Passions were aroused during some presentations as the impact of tight training budgets and the challenges raised by cultural issues were discussed with commendable honesty.

Mike Varney on behalf of IATA delivered the keynote speech. He set the tone by explaining the rationale and goals of the most recent IATA programme, the IATA Training and Qualification Initiative (ITQI), a subject that both Varney and David Owens addressed in an article in CAT 4/2008. The prospect of using flight data to provide evidence to help focus training on the real operational tasks and areas where additional training is required is exciting. The ability to identify the skills and competencies to meet the evolving needs of day-to-day operations and to immediately feed that back into an adaptive training system will enable the best use to be made of training assets. Not only does it make training more efficient, but it also opens up the option to immediately address any safety-related issues as soon as they become identified from that flight data.


There is no doubt that the industry is under pressure from several directions and that there is a potential for some organisations, either deliberately or through lack of attention, to let safety issues slip to a lower priority. One tool we can use to be proactive is to create and maintain a culture of safety throughout an organisation. Given that safety is a mindset rather than a simple skill, everyone in an organisation looks to the higher echelons to judge behaviour with respect to safety issues. Is there simply a policy statement or is there a “just” culture “where errors are understood but where everyone understands that deliberate deviation from procedures will not be tolerated”(a quote from Kenny So, from the Hong Kong CAD)?

An interesting example of the change in corporate culture was cited by Chris Ranganathan of Gulf Air, in which major changes in training were made after an accident. The whole training philosophy is now based on the AQP programme and uses adaptive training to address any undesirable behaviours observed during line operations. This is a live, practical application of evidence–based training. This theme was continued with an analysis that illustrated that good, reliable data was required before realistic changes could be made to implement competency based training, but that once that data was agreed on and continuously measured, the effectiveness of a training pattern could be judged and modified if necessary.

The session on MPL illustrated three different approaches within the region. What was encouraging for those promoting MPL as the model for future pilot training was the commitment of organisations in Thailand, China and Singapore to such a training pattern. The most impressive fact was that each of them plans to implement the programme with significantly more than the ICAO minimums until such time (well into the future) when an objective judgement on the success of the course can be made. Only then will consideration be given to reduce that training time.


The best training system in the world can only produce the best results if all the elements are in place. One of those is ensuring effective selection of pilot candidates, and the challenging task of doing that was covered, as was the integration of training aviation English into the ab initio pilot training pattern. A process was described that changed from a classic pattern of totally divorcing the English language training from the flight training, to a gentle integration of the two in a seamless progression.

Roger Carmichael, an experienced and respected figure on the aviation stage, who pressed hard for more emphasis on educating crews to the mental selection of the go around option if the approach to land is not properly set up, introduced a separate topic. His contention was that, in spite of existing training patterns, there is sadly an infrequent but continuing history of incidents and accidents, which could have been avoided if the decision to go around had been made in time. This does not focus on a region or a type of operator – poor decision making at this stage of flight has been noted on a global basis. He suggested the universal adoption of a trigger response, similar to the reaction to a TCAS or GPWS alert, and could consist simply of an instruction from either pilot to state “Go Around; Go Around”, which would require imperative and immediate action.

The long-requested guidance on testing for ICAO Aviation English was due to be sent out as a circular by ICAO at end September 2008. It aims to strike the balance between best practices and practicality and will be available to 190 signatory states. Presentations on the academic and practical views on delivering Aviation English helped to put that subject into perspective.

The final two sessions addressed issues on new methodologies and new technologies. An update on progress from the RAeS International Working Group revealed that the ICAO 9625 Edition 3 draft version was formally handed over to ICAO in August 2008; from January 2009 it will be accessible on the ICAO website for comments / suggestions from industry. Some training patterns can be diluted in effectiveness if separate organisations duplicate or omit certain skills. Presentations in this session put forward the improvements to the total training quality that can be achieved if all pilot training is integrated and continuous through a single training provider, which coordinates the separate elements. There was an enthusiastic debate on whether increasing fidelity is necessary to improve training or whether the requirement is to drive training equipment costs down to make training more accessible.

APATS 08 worked well; it brought together serious players from the aviation training world and provided excellent presentations, which not only suggested some answers, but also provoked debate and vigorous exchanges of ideas – just what the industry needs.

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