The 16th World Aviation Training Conference & Tradeshow (WATS) flew into the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, in Orlando, Florida, April 16-18. With 1,000 attendees hailing from 49 countries and 94 airlines, WATS demonstrated again that it is the largest gathering of aviation training professionals. The four conference tracks - pilot training, regional airline pilot training, cabin training and maintenance training - were supplemented by new breakout sessions, including a Latin American training focus conducted in the Spanish language. With Gold Sponsor CAE, some 56 exhibitors showcased their training and simulation know-how. Conference Chair Chris Lehman files this report.

Opening with a Flourish Opening Keynote addresses were delivered by Peggy Gilligan, the FAA’s Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, as well as US NTSB Member Earl Weener. The theme of WATS 2013 was all about human performance, and Gilligan quickly got to the core issues. While quipping that she didn’t know what some delegates may be doing on their devices, she acknowledged the pervasive “anytime, anywhere” nature of information, and the huge technical advances in aviation operations. “Technology is not the answer to every problem, and there’s no place for a ‘set it and forget it’ attitude in aviation.” Emphasizing the power of safety cultures, the Associate Administrator also cited the need to cultivate professionalism, mentor the next generation, and embrace a “back to basics” training mindset.

Earl Weener of the NTSB continued the opening remarks by posing the question “Is safety cyclical?” He noted that safety efforts can range from the “Do it once, get the gain and it sticks,” to the issues that you have to continuously work at to retain the gain. Then there are those that you think you solved, you relax and they come back to bite you again. In a time when the accident rate for commercial aviation has never been lower - 2012 was the safest year on record - Weener outlined what he called “the paradox of safety”, which is “…when you get really good at preventing accidents, the apparent need for those measures can go away.”

Combined Stream Presentations began with Viktor Robeck of IATA, Captain John Cox of Safety Operating Systems and Captain Jacques Drappier of Airbus. IATA emphasized its ITQI initiative which aims to increase the personnel resource pool by improving industry attractiveness and the effectiveness of training through the development of competency based training. Cox outlined the need for increased understanding of inflight smoke and fire events, including the risks of onboard lithium batteries given the number of passenger devices carried onboard. Drappier then nailed the entire conference theme, stating that technology remains a “tool” not the solution to help crews and technicians maintain current safety performance levels. He also called on the industry to establish a new definition for the instructor role, so that they are seen as coach, guide, facilitator and mentor.

WATS Pilot Moderated by long time moderators Peter Moxham and Dr. Michael Karim, the dedicated WATS Pilot sessions began with ICAO’s initiatives to sustain human capital such as the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP), as well as ICAO’s input in the International Pilot Training Consortium (IPTC). CAE Parc Aviation picked up on the human capital theme by discussing their pilot provisioning services, while FlightPath International delivered a summary of their activities in Multi-Crew Pilot Licensing (MPL). Increasingly being adopted outside the US, the MPL’s competency-based training philosophy has proven effective, but there are many misconceptions. The session was rounded out by a presentation from the Korean Government on Aviation Personnel Licensing.

As a prelude to the dedicated Regional Airline sessions to come on day 2, the final session of the day looked at the issue of US regional airline pilot supply and demand, and was led by the Regional Airline Association’s (RAA) Training Committee. According to Airlines for America, with some 27,000 pilots to retire between now and 2025, the community will need about 44,000 pilots. Complicating matters is pending congressional legislation for new hire F/O’s, including 1,500 hours and an ATP.

Compelling training “lessons-learned” were provided by Kalitta Air on AQP adoption, and by Finnair Flight Academy on training for “economical operations” in scheduled service. Over the last few years CAT has followed the Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) initiatives, and ICATEE provided a detailed update. Pinnacle stated that pilots must be able to recognize a high altitude stall and be subjected to “startle” events in the FFS. Alaska Airlines outlined their renowned Runway Safety program which includes the adoption of a new technology RAAS and enhanced SOP’s.

RATS Pilot Led by the RAA’s Training Committee, with particular support from Scott Foose, Paul Preidecker and Darrin Greubel, an entire day was devoted to regional airline training issues. Front and center was a pilot labor forecast research project by the University of North Dakota (UND). A mere 53% of instructors surveyed will choose the career full time, and 32 percent are re-thinking their plans due to the 1,500 hour rule. ExpressJet stated that the pilot shortage is already here – airline job fair attendance is down by 50%, their pool of applicants is nil, and only some 30% of applicants to the airline are actually qualified for a job offer.

Many of the airlines in attendance echoed the shortage theme. American Eagle had a pool of 500 applicants but today there are less than 100 in that pool. Few saw any relief in the immediate future, but all agreed that the industry needed to do a better job of marketing the career and to be “Ambassadors of Aviation.”

GoJet Airlines challenged delegates to consider going from the traditional Continuing Qualification (CQ) three day classroom and two days in the simulator, to just two in the simulator and incorporating on-line learning. These efficiencies were seen as helping to mitigate the personnel shortages. ExpressJet continued the theme with its discussion of AQP adoption and the lessons-learned.

The safety benefits and lower approach minimums facilitated with RNP-AR procedures were outlined by Horizon Air, who has implemented an impressive training program for these new technologies. United Airlines chimed in with the unique training challenges that were overcome during their successful merger with Continental Airlines, and also vigorously endorsed the power of e-learning and their corporate-wide embrace of the technology.

Other subjects in the track included notes from Middle Tennessee State University on the power of scenario-based training curriculums in primary training. The FAA opined that the new Flight Duty and Rest rule will increase safety but also increase demand for qualified flight crew members, which some see as further exacerbating the pilot shortage.

Cabin Training Moderated by Jeanne Kenkel and Captain Al LaVoy, the cabin track dug into some of the most topical training issues impacting the community, many of which are actually common with pilot training – including the adoption of AQP. JetBlue University provided valuable “lessons-learned” while Novair looked at pre-qualification training for cabin crew, emphasizing the need for balance between efficiency and proficiency. Inflight Innovations presented the power of today’s technology in an “integrated learning cycle” for both initial and recurrent training.

Training cultures are always front and center at WATS Cabin with presentations from US Airways, Southwest and Delta. US Airways discussed the importance of a seamless transition from the fundamentals provided in training to the practical application of those fundamentals, while Southwest discussed the issue of collaborative learning in the classroom, and how to make the most of this precious training time.

Cultural issues continued with an exceptional presentation from NaviMinds on dealing with different cultures in CRM training, particularly with respect to maintaining appropriate assertiveness. The diversity theme played again with a joint JetBlue-MedAire presentation on caring for passengers with disabilities and complying with the US Part 382 Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulations.

Just like the flight deck, the cabin training world is going paperless. GoJet Airlines discussed the issues surrounding transitioning from paper manuals and materials to the tablet. JetBlue discussed the move from traditional CRM training to a Threat and Error Management (TEM) System, and “managing the cabin climate.” SkyWest discussed the power of mining AQP data for “Continuous Improvement.”

FlightSafety and CornerStone Strategies LLC, conducted an interactive session with delegates on human factors and “The Real Reason We Defy Change and Resist New Behaviours.” Health Leaders Promoting Safety looked at the issues surrounding inflight medical emergencies, and the fact that the number of incidents are increasing. Finally, a joint Western Michigan University - CA Training Solutions presentation pointed to the potential value of light therapy to reduce crew fatigue.

Maintenance Training Moderated by the FAA’s Dr Bill Johnson, the maintenance sessions carried on with the need for change. Lufthansa Technical Training quoted the Einstein aphorism “Learning is experiencing, everything else is just information” as the case for training for competency. MNG Technic followed on the importance of scenario-based training, with AAR speaking on the value of outreach and partnership activities with the community.

Western Michigan University (WMU) outlined the challenges and current initiatives that are trying to get curriculum updates underway for the Part 147 schools. Industry was encouraged to take part in the conversation via the survey at WMU students carried the misalignment theme further, reporting on a project on the gaps in composite training. BCIT provided an overview of the Canadian training system noting that some of the same challenges apply elsewhere in the community.

Troubleshooting is the mainstay skill of the exemplary maintainer: the challenge is to train this skill. FlightSafety described a tried and true methodology based on the principles of troubleshooting, and the Bell Training Academy continued by outlining the 140 active courses offered to their worldwide client base. DiSTI traced the evolution of maintenance training devices, closing with examples of current applications. A good discussion ensued on the value of collecting maintenance “event” data and using it to develop lessons learned and interventions. The final session focused on instructional design and the use of technology. infoWERK provided a primer on the fundamental principles of good design of multimedia, while Flightline Training Services noted training is “no longer just about how to fix the aircraft, but rather how to get the information out of the aircraft”. The need was for a balanced mix of instructors, CBT and virtual. Airbus was the final presenter, outlining the changes being brought by the A350 - a key component of training design was to strip out nice to know content, and focus on critical areas.

Simulation Technology and e-learning These conference sessions dealt with simulation technology and e-learning and presenters provided valuable “lessons-learned” information. Warnings about the need for a new approach to FFS Qualification Test Guides (QTG’s), came from the first speaker representing Artilligence. The transport delay requirement of 150 msec is obsolete and we need certification of motion systems to be via closed loop critical manoeuvre testing. CAE chimed in with a perspective on the simulator enhancements necessary to accommodate UPRT working group recommendations to enhance stall and upset training. Link Simulation UK discussed evolving instructor stations in concert with new requirements such as upset recovery training, ATC simulation, and the exploding amount of information that the instructor deals with due to new scenario-based training initiatives.

A final session on e-learning kicked off with an excellent C. Hall Jones & Associates presentation on de-bunking the myths of distance learning, pointing out that success is dependent on well-designed courseware – not the technology. JETPUBS moved the discussion to mobile delivery of training materials and manuals, noting that success here is also based on more than just selecting which mobile device to use. There are incredible gains to be made by making the transition, but rushing into it or doing it for the wrong reasons can be costly. Finally, a presentation by Western Michigan University (WMU) dramatically illustrated the power of iPad’s in collegiate aviation training using commercially available flight planning software and cost-effective ADS-B receivers for real time weather, traffic, GPS navigation and TFRs.

WATS Pilot Breakouts (possibly in box) • Spanish Language Session on Latin American Training Issues - Participation included COPA Airlines, Avianca-Taca, LATAM Group, Interjet and Aerolineas Argentinas

• FAA National Simulator Program (NSP) - Q&A Session from Atlanta-based sim qualification team

• ICAO-led panel on Loss of Control (LOCART)

Potential tweets to embed in the text: Frederic Smet ‏@SmetFrederic 16 Apr Excellent keynote address by Peggy Gilligan #wats2013: technology can't replace situational awareness or the need for training. To the point! Mike Bierscheid ‏@mbiers 17 Apr From UND Professor Kent Lovelace: "For the period 2013-2031, there is a potential deficit of 35,000 airline pilots." #wats2013 @myUND Thierry Crespo ‏@TCrespo 16 Apr #wats2013 quote : We must use new technologies such as #Mobile and #AR to drive attitude, decision making and behavior while on the job. Kelly Murphy ‏@EmeraldUS 16 Apr Capt Jacques Drappier of Airbus quotes Butch Harmon: "I respect technology in teaching, but I do not worship it." #WATS2013 SouthAmericaAviation ‏@SouthAmericanAv 22 Apr Thanks to the success in #WATS2013, more and even better content in Spanish for Latin America is confirmed for WATS2014! Peak Pacific Group ‏@peak_pacific 19 Apr @halldalemedia Thanks to the organisers for a great #WATS2013! #PeakPacific