Chuck Weirauch provides an update on the use of mobile and paperless training.
With the world's two largest airliner manufacturers taking major steps to foster the implementation of iPads as Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) into the cockpits of their aircraft, it's becoming clear that more air carriers will adopt this mobile platform into their operations in the near future. Chuck Weirauch reports.
And it may not be too long before airlines begin telling flight schools that they will expect their new hires to be experienced in the use of these mobile devices as well.
Already, several airlines have already adopted the mobile platform as EFBs, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Qantas, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, SriLankan Airlines and Volga-Dnepr Airlines, along with UPS, according to Rick Ellerbrock, Chief Strategist for Jeppesen & Boeing Digital Aviation. Jeppesen already provides the navigational charts and other operational apps that provide the basis of most content aboard iPad EFBs. At the end of June, JetBlue Airways received FAA approval to give all pilots custom-equipped iPads, and the airline said that it will be training pilots in their use.
"Many airlines globally have received formal regulatory authorization for iPads as an EFB with Jeppesen charts," Ellerbrock said. "There are some airlines that have spoken publicly about their authorized programs, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more airlines are moving to iPad and mobile EFB solutions, and are at various stages between line trial evaluations, to provisional authorization with paper backup, to full paperless."
Both Boeing, in partnership with EFB app content provider Jeppesen, and Airbus are behind the push for paperless cockpits. Rather than considering it a hand-held or strapped-down operational tool independent of cockpit instrumentation as Boeing does, Airbus considers the iPad as a link to its ground-based FlySmart information technology system that was developed by Rockwell Collins, with FlySmart apps onboard the cockpit iPad. Qantas was the launch customer for the ‘FlySmart with Airbus’ cockpit application. These apps will be used by all pilots in the airline who fly Airbus aircraft.
Mobile Training on its Way While the move to paperless cockpits and iPads as EFBs is clear, what is not at this point is whether airlines are planning to employ such mobile devices as platforms for flight crew training, or even training for initial hires in the use of the platform. According to American Airlines it currently only has a small amount of mobile/remote training in place, but that it is an area that the airline is investigating. American is the first major commercial airline to gain approval to employ iPads in all of its aircraft cockpits during all phases of flight.
However, Sherry Carbary, who is VP of Boeing Flight Services, sees tremendous potential in employing mobile devices for flight crew training as well as for airline operations. She feels that doing so will provide more productive and efficient training that can be suited for both the next generation of pilots as well as airline veterans. She sees pilots using the apps during long-haul flights to study for recurrent training, while students could employ them in hotels during layovers, for example.
Boeing Flight Services is in the process of taking some of its flight operations products and transforming them into mobile-friendly apps, such as an integrated quick-reference handbook and onboard performance tools. On a longer range, the company will start creating new training content with mobile learning in mind. The goal is to make training more interactive, possibly including some gaming-based technology in the apps as well in the future.
"We are all on this journey of moving from paper to digital, so what we are trying to do from a training perspective is to move things from the desktop to something that is more mobile and accessible so that the data works really well on the device," Carbary explained. "Paper doesn't provide you with any feedback. Digital apps are getting better and better to be able to provide that feedback and situational awareness and give you a better teaching experience."
While enhancing the training experience, mobile apps also help address the aviation industry's need to change the way it trains, especially for the next generation of pilots, Carbary pointed out. However, the industry must collectively work together to establish the same kind of standards for mobile learning applications as it has for more traditional training content.
One App Does it All Just as iPads serve as the repository for operational apps in the cockpit, one of the latest trends is to have an app that is the one-stop training tool which serves as the library for every app students and pilots would ever need. With more than 500 apps for Apple mobile devices listed on AviatorApps (http://aviatorapps.com), for example, these one-stop apps seek to end the confusion of choosing the best apps for operations and training.
One of the most recent everything-apps, just released this August is Aerosim's ETHOS Pilot Training Suite, which provides cockpit and aircraft systems familiarization and procedure training, along with a fully simulated FMS trainer. ETHOS also includes the company's previously released Checkride exam self-study guide. The first ETHOS version to be released is for the Airbus A320 aircraft. According to Aerosim's product marketing manager Erik Tobler, the app was designed to be used by students before their full flight simulator sessions to help address a training gap.
"We continue to see that specifically for airline pilot training, there continues to be a struggle where once the flight crews get into a full flight simulator, there is still a group of pilots that are still struggling with the FMS or also even procedures. ETHOS basically harnesses what students would use at the training center and puts all of that into the hands of the user. There [in students' iPads], with repeated practice, there can be better preparation and more mastering of systems, the FMS and procedures well before the full flight simulator."
Like most apps, ETHOS resides natively on the mobile device and only needs to be connected online for linking to the Aerosim learning management system (LMS) and for updates. In the future, the company hopes to add additional training suites to the app, such as those specifically for recurrent training or AQP.
Another everything-app designed to be a toolbox to consolidate the functions of a number of free-standing apps is the latest version of eKneeBoard developed by Anywhere Education. According to Mike Shiflett, the company's director of Aviation Content and former CEO of MS Aviation, the app includes all operational charts and such things as a flight planner to function as an EFB while including mobile versions of classroom courseware. Depending on what a flight school might want to include, it can also feature a resource management system app for the scheduling and dispatch of the flight schools training aircraft, for example.
"So you can see that it is really designed to be one place to go to for just about everything a pilot or instructor needs to do on a daily basis," Shiflett said. "Flight schools can add on to it to customize whatever they want to put into the eKneeBoard library, including procedure update notes, for example."
Several flight schools are already employing eKneeBoard into their flight operations and academics, with US Aviation Academy employing it for the training of their Air China students and Liberty University using it in the cockpit for all of their charting functions. Some universities are using the app as a supplement to their academics, while a commuter airline will soon be conducting recurrent training with eKneeBoard.
"All of the flight schools are getting the idea that they are going to need to start using mobile applications for their operations and training, and they want to do it," Shiflett pointed out. "They see the handwriting on the wall. It's only a matter of time before air carriers turn around to the flight schools and say that you have to train students to use mobile devices as EFBs and for training."
According to Barry Janisse, VP of Sales and Marketing at aviation courseware provider CPaT, the mobile solution world is "fast approaching". One key advantage that flight schools and airlines appreciate the most with mobile training apps is that they are paperless, no-setup time courses, eliminating the amount of time and effort that a student has to take to set up a training session. This means that the student is more inclined to use the courseware.
CPaT has recently been upgrading all its content for offline mobile applications with its Flight Ready Training platform. This platform incorporates HTML 5, the newest version of Internet language that can run on any computer platform and is particularly suited for any type of mobile device. Janisse reported that customers are using the company's courseware to enhance their own, particularly in South America, Australia and Indonesia. "It's spreading like a wildfire," Janisse noted.
Mobile Enhanced Learning A few flight schools already consider mobile applications such an important element of training that they require their students to have an iPad as the repository for all of the schools courseware, as does ATP Flight School. Flight Training International announced earlier this year that it will issue an iPad EFB to all students. Others, like Phoenix East in Daytona Beach, Florida, Western Michigan University and the University of Western Ontario have voluntary programs for iPad use but see students rapidly adopting their use and reaping several benefits from them.
According to Lori Brown, Assistant Professor at Western Michigan's College of Aviation, the university has started using the iPad in the classroom to try to turn the classroom into a more engaging mobile lab rather than the traditional environment. The aviation college employs apps for its aircraft systems courses like Aerosim's Checkride for the CRJ aircraft. Recently, her classes have employed the mobile version of the game-based XPlane flight simulator to create a whole FMS lab where they can actually enter their flight plans into the simulator's virtual FMS.
"This approach lets us get away from a lecture and a PowerPoint presentation to allow the student to actually get a chance to work hands-on to understand the systems before they go into the full flight simulator sessions," Brown explained. "Because the simulator is so expensive to operate, we found that using the iPad beforehand is a great bridge and the simulator time is now much more productive. The students really seem to be engaged with the actual hands-on operations now."
Suzanne Kearns, Assistant Professor of Commercial Aviation Management at the University of Western Ontario, feels that mobile learning has really brought an opportunity for the aviation industry to rethink learning in general. The goal is to find ways to optimize learning in this type of environment.
Kearns has done just that by developing a new series of mobile-device based short courses on pilot safety that she has dubbed SNAP courses. They are seven-minute long modules that focus on such things as the recognition of fatigue and the importance of decision-making as they relate to safety.
Rather than be exposed to such messages just one or two times a year in recurrent training, students are asked to review these courses one or two times a week, either before or after classroom instruction. The idea is to reinforce safety concepts in this manner to help maintain their retention not only during their formal instruction but well into their careers as well. Kearns will be promoting her SNAP approach through the Aviation Industry Computer-based Training Committee (AICC) and the University Aviation Association (UAA), with a study now underway as to the effectiveness of this approach.
"We want pilots to think that safety is something that happens every day, not just in the classroom," Kearns explained. "And that's why I think that mobile is just such a natural application for this message. Mobile is personal, it's yours, it's in your pocket and it's a part of your life."