There are many challenges to the flight crew training world, and often attention is focussed on the new technology or regulatory imperatives. The most recent Royal Aeronautical Society Flight Crew Training Conference in London, UK, however, had a very specific aim - to examine the absolutely fundamental element of the training regimes - the Instructor.
The conference started with a reminder of the scale of demand for pilots, and through specific geographic and airline examples, illustrated the urgency of the response for the demand. With that huge requirement for pilots there is a corresponding surge in the numbers of instructors needed to train them. Increasingly there is recognition that the role of instructor demands particular and valuable skills at whatever level of instruction, be it ab initio, type or recurrent training. Mere completion of the minimum number of hours for a licence, or a large amount of flight time are not, in themselves, a good measure of the suitability of an individual for the role as an instructor. The gradual recognition that competencies can be assessed and developed for specific tasks is leading to an awareness that, as for other flight tasks, the analysis of what is required of an instructor can result in a much more effective selection, training and monitoring of instructional skills. Whilst many pilots of whatever experience have the potential to be good instructors, all will benefit from training adapted to them as individuals.
By looking at anecdotal and current training outcomes it becomes clear that an often-missed talent is empathy with the student; this is now understood, and responsible training providers search for this as an essential characteristic in their instructional teams.
The constant search for improvement in training has led to the major aircraft OEMs on either side of the Atlantic to re-assess not just the content of training, but, critically, the methods used, and therefore the training necessary for the instructors to learn how to work with the adaptive learning techniques now being introduced. Happily there is an enthusiasm amongst the great majority of existing instructors to move to this newer way of passing on knowledge. This is in a style that fits well with the learning habits and skills of the latest generation of industry entrants.
Whilst not the immediate aim of the conference, the presence of many students currently in ab initio pilot training opened the debate on a,(probably the ) major challenge to recruiting sufficient pilots - the cost of training. This cost, which far exceeds the financial burden carried by other professions, becomes even more challenging when the initial pay levels of newly-qualified pilots are considered. The remedy must be cooperation with all the stakeholders to share that burden. Students, training organisations, airlines and governments need to work together to find a solution which will sustain an industry which is so fundamental to economic prosperity.
This was a very worthwhile conference which succeeded in its aim of putting the provision of properly qualified and competent instructors on the agenda. It is a global challenge, and the solutions proposed should be an aid to improving the quality and numbers of the right sort of training team. – Chris Long