Many players in the aviation training industry are adapting rapidly to the challenges of responding to the increasing demands of training the new entrants to commercial aviation. Chris Long reports.

The apparently unending growth in demand means that, as the numbers ramp up, development of innovative, effective and efficient ways of training in all the aviation disciplines is critical. One approach to that is put forward by Michael Kalbow, Head of Maintenance Training at Airbus, who is looking at a possible evolutionary path over a 10 year period.

Clearly his particular area of interest is in maintenance training, and in particular the Type Qualification for the Airbus, but many of the ideas expressed are coherent with future training across the board. Kalbow briefly traces the evolution so far, as the move from the classic classroom theory/workshop practice through to supervised work on aircraft, has moved through technology improvements such as CAT (computer aided training) and CBT (computer based training), to a newer world of virtual aircraft. Kalbow makes the distinction between the varying levels of immersion in that virtual world, but there is little doubt that it will not only complement what is presently being delivered, but will expand and improve the training environment.

Generation Y

Alongside the changes in technology has been the emergence of Generation Y, who present a radically different mind set from their predecessors. Among the strengths shown by this group is their ability to study and work in complex situations – absorbing and moving easily in a world where there are multiple and instantaneous inputs. This fits naturally into an aeronautical world where the intrinsic interdependence of aircraft systems requires an immediate understanding of the effect of an action in one part of the system on all the other systems. Consequently the classic subdivision of independent systems (e.g. hydraulics or electrical system) is no longer relevant; nor is the study of these systems as separate entities appropriate. Recently one Airline was very clear that their young generation is no longer interested in the classic classroom training, but have adapted to, and are happy with, the Airbus ACT as “the right answer”.

Kalbow suggests that, in 10 years’ time, we could well see a training process which, for the maintenance team, may never actually involve hands-on time on an aircraft in operations / service before applying it on the ramp. By combining the natural talents of generation Y, as well as their successors, with evolving technology, it is possible to envisage a situation where a student will be exposed to a holistic training pattern which embraces both distance learning and work immersed in a virtual environment. Scenario-based training will play a large part, together with selective “Gamification” to engage the imagination and spur interest. This vision would not only be rich in experience for the trainee, but could be delivered in smaller lesson packages better adapted to the shorter attention span seen with this demographic, and probably specifically adapted to the individual – one size does not fit all!

Interactive

Alongside their talents there are, of course, characteristics of this group which remain something of a challenge. A key feature of this generation is a mind set which has been encouraged to be explorative and interactive in the learning and working process. This contrasts markedly with the highly structured and disciplined approach which characterises the aviation industry. The conservative, systematic and disciplined style of aviation work has been forged in the quest for absolute safety, and is most unlikely to be abandoned in the immediate future. The essential and absolute adherence to procedures does not always sit well with a mental default setting which questions and challenges as a matter of course. Whilst new and highly personalised interactive training processes can be very effectively employed, it may turn out that the greater challenge will be to convincingly introduce the tightly defined discipline required in a rigorous safety management system. Not impossible, but not easy, either.

The data which has been gathered to shape Evidence Based Training clearly shows that inappropriate human behaviour has frequently been the catalyst early in the chain reaction which has led to an incident/accident. Although technical glitches still exist and must be addressed, the focus of interest is moving away from “mere” technology to look very closely at the integration of people and the way they interact with the technology. Emerging and future technologies will certainly require that a human operator properly understands and applies that technology in a real-time context, and remains actively engaged on the routine and abnormal operating conditions.

Kalbow is open to discussion on the philosophy which will mould future training – there is certainly a fluidity to the way that training will develop, but now it is not simply the application of emerging technology or new methodology, but, perhaps more critically, the evolution in the talents and mind sets of those who will drive the industry in the future. Not only is that requirement self-evident, but it reflects the bigger picture in commercial operation.

There is no “magic bullet” to ensure this, but it is increasingly clear that a new way of thinking will be necessary across all training disciplines and skills, and the shape of that thinking is still under development; the evolution will be a continuous process.