Ian Strachan reports from the RAeS conference ‘Improving Training Provision’.
At the Royal Aeronautical Society HQ in London, the Society and the International Air Transport Association held a conference in June on "Improving Training Provision". Over 120 delegates attended from 26 different countries.
Jens Bjarnason, IATA Operations director, said that his organisation represented some 240 airlines and about 84% of total air traffic. Although accident statistics for western-built aircraft are at an all-time low, there was room for improvement. Figures were good for airlines in the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) programme, but were much poorer for non-IOSA operators in Africa and the CIS which includes nine States from Armenia to Uzbekistan, and includes Russia.
Forecasts from Airbus and Boeing indicate that about 1700 new Commercial Air Transport aircraft will be produced each year between now and 2031, a total of over 30,000 new airliners. Furthermore, some 23,000 new pilots will be required each year over the same period, with the highest growth in the Asia/Pacific region. This adds up to over 400,000 new commercial pilots between now and 2031.
How is this enormous number to be trained? One contribution, he said, is the IATA Training and Qualification Initiative (ITQI), started in 2007. ITQI covers Pilot Aptitude Testing (PAT), the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL), Evidence-Based Training (EBT), Instructor Qualification (IQ), Flight Simulation Training Devices (FSTD), and Engineering & Maintenance training. IATA manuals giving Guidance Material and Best Practices for these subjects are now available, see www.iata.org/itqi. So, there is still much to do in some regions, and training for the large growth forecast needs urgently addressing.
Future Growth The growth forecast was amplified by Captain John Bent, chairman of Training Practices for the International Pilot Training Consortium (IPTC). He noted that in the next two decades, commercial aircraft fleets are forecast to triple in Asia and double elsewhere. However, forecasts of increased commercial activity have proved wrong in the past, due to unforeseen events such as the 9/11 attacks, instability and military conflicts, financial downturn, bank failures and so forth. However, he suggested that we cannot continue to ignore forecasts in the hope that they are wrong. They should be planned for now.
He said that the US airline industry was about 34% of global activity, contributing some US$1.3 trillion to the US economy, 5.2% to GDP, and 376,000 jobs. However, in November 2012 the Wall Street Journal said that US airlines are facing their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s, with Congress-driven higher experience requirements (1500 hours) for new pilot hires just as the industry braces for a wave of retirements. The FAA's head of flight standards, John Allen, said in 2012 that the projected retirement numbers are "astounding and dramatic" and, significantly, "we don't have a system to address this issue".
John Bent suggested that any spare US training capacity, now used by many Asian airlines, could be completely absorbed by this US-only demand. A report on Pilot Supply in March 2013 by the US Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) and the US University Aviation Association (UAA) suggested that the likely result of inadequate staffing could be the reduction of flying by regional airlines, and this could cause disruption to the entire airline industry. It concluded that urgent efforts to fill the future pilot shortage should begin now. John Bent then turned to the Asia/Pacific region, and said that between now and 2030 over 10,000 new pilots are forecast to be needed each year, a total of over 170,000. He suggested that training resources in the region would develop, but this could take 10 years or more to satisfy forecast demand, not only for pilots but also for maintainers. Looking at the People’s Republic of China, its Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) regulates 33 airlines and was said to forecast a need for over 18,000 new pilots by the end of 2015 (less than two years to go!) Because there is a shortfall in pilot training organisations in China, large numbers must be trained overseas, topped up by pilots from other countries who can be paid up to US$180k pa.
On "what to train", the classic engine-failure case is now rare, but poor reaction to unexpected events and mis-handled go-arounds are more common. On the latter, he said that go-arounds rarely occur at the briefed missed approach height, are often poorly performed and have led to accidents. Furthermore, "unstable approaches" are only about 4% of the total, but 97% are continued to landing, and 10% result in an abnormal landing, just under 0.4% of total landings. For instance, each year some 30 over-runs occur, some being severe cases with fatalities. Better training is clearly needed in these areas.
Another complicating factor is that pilot careers in many regions are less attractive than before. Young "digital natives", he suggested, are unlikely to seek a piloting career when there are many alternatives. However, many organisations as well as IATA are addressing future training, but the adoption of ICAO training guidance by National Aviation Regulatory Authorities (NAAs) is slow. He concluded that available tools are not being used and that real action is needed now.
Summing up, John Bent asked for "clearance for take-off" for safer and harmonised global training standards.
Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) One subject mentioned in many presentations was the MPL. This uses less real flying but much more training in simulators to familiarise with the right-hand seat role that the MPL graduate will occupy with the sponsoring airline. Compared to the traditional CPL syllabus, the MPL contains considerably more "cockpit time" and its final stage includes experience in a Level D Full Flight Simulator so that conversion to the right hand seat of the airline’s aircraft will be seamless.
Dieter Harms, the "father of the MPL", had "a dream of a globally harmonized pilot qualification standard". Up to the end of 2012, he said, there had been about 2,200 MPL students worldwide, about 750 had graduated and were flying with their sponsoring airlines. The most growth was in Asia. He wanted to increase the global implementation of MPL, and concluded by saying: "don’t let us wait until the pilot shortage tsunami hits us".
Captain Bai Honqui of the Civil Aviation Flight University of China (CAFUC) described their MPL course. CAFUC has 200 aircraft at five training bases, 380 instructors and processes 1,200 ab-initio students per year. Airline passenger numbers in China had increased from about 190 million in 2008 to 320 million in 2012, a 68% increase over five years, about 14% per year. Over the same period, pilot numbers in China had increased from 17,300 to nearly 30,000. The CAFUC MPL course had 320 cockpit hours, starting with 95 flying hours in a Cessna 172 or equivalent type. The 225 simulator hours are in three phases, basic, intermediate and advanced. On graduation the student will have carried out take-offs and landings in an A320 or Boeing 737 simulator, ideal background for a quick conversion to the airline’s operational type, and radically different to the traditional CPL.
World Simulator Criteria - ICAO Document 9625 Peter Tharp of the RAeS Flight Simulation Group (FSG) briefed on the implementation of ICAO Document 9625 on simulator criteria, drafted initially by the International Working Group (IWG) chaired by the Flight Simulation Group of the RAeS. 9625 includes all flight simulator training devices (FSTD) from lower-level flight training devices (FTD), up to full flight simulators (FFS) with wide view visuals and full six-axis motion. The 9625 work has reduced 26 previous simulator categories to seven, the most capable being the new "Type 7", equivalent to a Level D with enhancements in areas such as air traffic management and motion cueing. The third edition of ICAO 9625 Volume 1 was published in July 2009 and has been implemented by some Regulatory Authorities, but disappointingly is forecast to be implemented by the US FAA and EASA only by 2016.
Enhancements to Volume 1 proposed by the RAeS-led International Committee for Aviation Training in Enhanced Envelopes (ICATEE) include modelling and cueing for stall and post-stall flight, the result of accidents such as Colgan 3407 near Buffalo and Air France 447 in the Atlantic. It was pointed out that the RAeS Annual Flight Crew Training (FTC) conference on 25-26 September had the title "Upset Prevention, Recognition and Recovery Training".
Finally, Volume 2 of ICAO 9625 is for helicopters, was published in 2011, and is at an earlier stage of implementation compared to Volume 1 for fixed-wing Aeroplanes.
International Pilot Training Consortium (IPTC) Peter Barrett of the RAeS briefed on the International Pilot Training Consortium (IPTC), of which he is chairman. This body is a partnership between ICAO, IATA, IFALPA and the RAeS, and will address: (1) pilot, instructor and evaluator training, (2) further reducing the accident rate, and (3) ensuring sufficient future pilots. IPTC originated during the RAeS 2011 Flight Crew Training Conference, after a meeting between the RAeS president, ICAO Air Navigation Bureau director, FAA Administrator, EASA Rulemaking director, IATA VP Operations, and the chief executive of the UK CAA. IPTC has a Steering Committee and Workstreams for Regulation, Pilot Competence, Pilot Recruitment, Training Devices and Training Practices. In the Regulatory area there will be an MPL Symposium at ICAO HQ in Montreal on 10-12 December 2013.
On flight simulators, IPTC supports the implementation of ICAO Doc 9625 by National CAAs, is to expand mutual recognition of simulator qualifications, and will review ICAO provisions for simulators. This includes taking forward the results of the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE) which recommended more Upset Prevention & Recovery Training (UPRT) in both initial and recurrent pilot training.
A full feature covering IPTC will be included in the next issue of CAT.
Conclusions This important conference illustrated both progress and uncertainties in the Commercial Air Transport sector, and there was much more than can be covered in a short article. Modern training aids were said to be of very high quality and vary from basic flight training devices (FTD) to top-level full flight simulators (FFS) with big visuals and all-axis motion. The Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) exploits these simulators and prepares new pilots for their future environment in the right hand seat. Looking wider, the International Pilot Training Consortium (IPTC) has been formed, and recent accidents show the need for more upset prevention & recovery training.
The major problem for the future is the supply of properly trained pilots and engineers to support the large expansion forecast between now and 2030. Predictions are for some 1700 new aircraft and no less than 23,000 new pilots each year. It is easier to produce aircraft than properly trained pilots, and this is the world "pilot shortage tsunami" referred to earlier, for which at present there seems to be no satisfactory solution.
Spirited action is required if these huge numbers of pilots and maintainers are to be properly trained and commercial aviation safety is to be maintained while this expansion takes place.