APATS 2011

APATS 2011

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APATS 2011 - Asian Training Gathers Pace

The Asian Pacific Airline Training Symposium (APATS), this year held in Bangkok, provided an arena in which the growing scale of training based in Asia was very evident. With over half of the speakers either originating from or based in the region, it is apparent that the rapid development of local training is bringing the confidence to show the rest of the world how it is responding to the much heralded major training task.

APATS 2011 Bangkok, Thailand. Image credit: David Malley/Halldale Media.

The scene was set for the conference by Air Chief Marshal Paiboon Chanhom of the Civil Aviation Training Center of Thailand, who re-iterated the predicted huge increase in aircraft numbers over the next 20 years, and the associated need for crews to operate them. The training for these new entrants must be quality-driven in order to provide safe and efficient commercial operation. Several speakers urged that new training systems take into account the mindset of the new generation which is entering training – we need to select ways of imparting the essential knowledge and behaviours that match the expectations and approach of young pilots. However we should never lose sight of the essential skills now needed in the cockpit – those must not be diluted.

As ever there is still a major challenge in getting pilots to a robust  Level 4 in the Aviation Language Proficiency scale mandated by ICAO. What is becoming apparent is that there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve a consistent benchmark for those raters who administer the test. Standardising of the actual test in terms of content and duration (for instance the tests can last anywhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours depending on the examining organisation) to define the level of language competency is proving to be a major challenge. A new tool to help that process is now available through the ICAO website (Rated Speech Sample Training Aid) which offers free downloads of specimen examinations and their scores. Additionally there is also a new ICAO initiative whereby training organisations can choose to submit their examining process to ICAO so that it can be accepted as a valid test.

It is well recognised that it is essential to complete a selection process for  suitable candidates for ab initio training (this is mandatory for those undertaking MPL training), and there is now a considerable amount of feedback on the effectiveness of those processes. Where once English language competency was seen as an add-on it is now generally recognised that this is critical, and that the level required before the aviation-specific training starts seems to be increasingly demanding.

Given that the Asia Pacific region has seen MPL emerging as the ab initio training pattern of choice by the major airlines, it was interesting to see two different approaches to that training template. As these new pilots take up their duties with their airlines there will be an increasing amount of data to measure the effectiveness of the MPL philosophy. What is already becoming apparent is that there is a uniform approval by the airlines of the quality of young pilots being produced by this system. The only variable is the level of enthusiasm of the airlines – which moves from very satisfied to ecstatic as airline training captains express their incredulity at the level of competency and confidence of this new generation of pilots. If the accumulating data continues to bear out the success of the MPL pattern, then perhaps other parts of the world who have been uneasy about the potential level of capability of low-time pilots will finally be reassured.

Another philosophy which has moved from the theoretical to routine implementation is the most recent iteration of Evidence Based Training, which is now being directly integrated into both type rating  training packages and, importantly, into recurrent training. This, of course, is an ongoing  development, with near-immediate adoption of lessons learnt during line operations.

There were sessions presented by the regulators on both new developments in regulation and the ICAO forecasts for growth in traffic, but in a  new initiative for APATS, there were  two parallel breakout sessions exclusively for regulators. These workshops were chaired by ICAO and IATA, and their success means that the aim is for them to become a regular component of future APATS.

If  the success of a conference is measured by the involvement of the delegates in terms of the questions and debate after the presentations, then this symposium hit the spot. Many expert opinions were enthusiastically expressed from the floor, and the discussion migrated to the exhibition hall where exhibitors were able to show their solutions to the challenges and issues raised. New faces were delighted to extend their range of contacts, and established players were able to take the opportunity of reinforcing the ties with customers old and new.

The dynamism that is aviation in Asia was very evident at APATS 2011, and the present and future shortage of pilots is generating a lot of energy as new and efficient solutions are being sought. Global and regional expertise combined in Bangkok to identify and share best practice which should serve to answer the apparently insatiable appetite for training in the region. In what would be a reversal of the “traditional”  flow direction of new ideas, those which are being created here may serve as a model to be adopted further afield in the global arena.

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