Don’t look for it soon, but there’s a fundamental re-write coming in how training is defined for pilots and other aviation personnel. Rick Adams surveys the status and expectations for key regulations and guidance.

The wave of pilot training and simulation re-evaluation which began a decade ago with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Multi-crew Pilot Licence (MPL) scheme may see another crest in the next few years. MPL introduced the concept of competency-based training (CBT) rather than the tick-the-box pilot qualification which had been the norm for half a century, but now with an admittedly mixed bag of experience under its collective belt the aviation community is looking to refine how it defines competency.

Triggered by feedback from pilot training practitioners and leveraging a recent initiative to develop training guidance for air traffic controllers, ICAO is considering shifting away from the phase-of-flight task-oriented competencies parameters of MPL to a more generic framework which individual aviation training organisations would then augment for their specific needs.

Henry Defalque, ICAO Technical Officer in Licensing and Operations, Flight Operations Section, told CAT that, if the new clarification of CBT is approved by the ICAO Air Navigation Commission this year, “we will have a concept which is far better defined than we have done before.” And, based on the new concept, “we will have to review the whole of PANS-TRNG,” the Procedures for Air Navigation Services Training, Document 9868, which is evolving into ICAO’s master compendium for all aviation professional training.

A preview of the likely new competency framework is represented in the training guidelines for air traffic controllers (ATCOs) in the Doc 9868 2nd Edition 2015, which takes effect on November 10th this year. The document states: “The competency framework supports the establishment of a systematic approach … by providing a generic model that should be adapted to suit the variety of situations that exist worldwide in the ATM [air traffic management] domain. The competency framework consists of competency units, competency elements and performance criteria. The assessment (evidence) guide and range of variables are to be developed by training organizations and/or ANSPs [air navigation service providers] as part of the local adaptation process. Competency units, competency elements and performance criteria shall be further developed from job and tasks analysis of ATM personnel and shall describe observable outcomes.”

“The framework is generic and is intended to be adapted to the operating environment and challenges of the organisation as well as to the professional experience of ATCOs. It does not address the specific definition of duties, sharing of tasks, ratings and proficiency levels existing in the organisation. Local implementation of this framework includes selecting competencies appropriate to their local context.”

One of the broad “competency units” for controllers, for example, is situational awareness, and the “competency elements” include “monitor the operational situation, scan for specific or new information, comprehend the operational situation, anticipate the new situation, recognise indications of reduced situational awareness.” Of the dozen “performance criteria / observable behaviours” for situational awareness, a competent ATCO trainee “identifies potentially hazardous situations (e.g. amount of separation with other aircraft, objects, airspace and ground, consequences of adverse weather, navigational deviations and capacity overload).”

By comparison, the current MPL competency elements are more task-oriented: perform pre-flight checks and cockpit preparation, perform engine start, perform taxi, and so forth.

The now-preferred more generic approach to competency training is being implemented for ATCOs because, Defalque explained, “it was not possible to fit all the contexts in which a controller is trained within a single competency framework. It depends on what you are training - aerodrome rating, enroute rating, surveillance rating, procedural rating. All that is different and would lead to different competency frameworks.”

Adoption of the new competency framework will essentially require an update of the entire PANS-TRNG document, “every single competency framework,” according to Defalque. Currently there are sections on MPL, aircraft maintenance personnel, ATCO, and air traffic safety electronics personnel (ATSEP) training. The revision effort would not be completed before 2020.

Beyond 2020, after overhauling the existing material, ICAO envisions competency-based training sections for disciplines such as cabin crew, flight dispatchers, and aerodrome personnel, among others.

“The idea would be to harmonise on a global basis the knowledge required for the various licences,” said Defalque. “All the competency frameworks based on the new concept would be available in a single document, rather than having manuals written by different persons and which are slightly unaligned with the new concept because they were published before the concept was finalised.”

Does 9625 Go Into 60?

“There have to be improvements to training, and MPL is a step in the right direction,” said Jim Takats, Senior Vice President, Global Simulation and Training Strategy for Textron’s TRU Simulation + Training. “The MPL results may not be as earth-shattering as some initially thought. Early MPL programmes were probably there a little too soon. And some people really weren’t doing what we would call pure MPL. But I think there are a lot of positive things coming out of that. The programmes are all very different, which gives us a lot of data.”

Takats has been involved in multiple industry working groups over the past decade, and he cites as “a step change” the evidence-based training (EBT) initiative led by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). “We’ve all heard about automation and the degradation of flying skills and the practical test standard pretty much set in stone for 45 or 50 years. EBT was a huge initiative with a lot of resources applied to it to come up with objective data about where the threats are, where we should be focusing training instead of driven by specific tasks. Today it’s all about knowledge skills, and attitude - the KSAs.”

With the publication of ICAO Document 9625, the Manual of Criteria for the Qualification of Flight Simulation Training Devices, “we changed the training paradigm,” according to Takats. “Instead of technical folks figuring out what new whizz-bang training device we can create and throw over the fence for the training folks to figure out what they could use it for, we said let’s see what the training folks say they need, then get technical folks to figure out the requirements to meet the training needs.”

Unfortunately, the Doc 9625 guidance has not been widely adopted by National Aviation Authorities around the world. “The fundamental problem is not necessarily a disagreement with what’s in there; regulators were part of the process,” Takats commented. “The problem is the complexity in adopting it. It’s no longer just a manual of criteria for flight simulators. It also includes all the aspects of what the sim can be used for in training, which touches on a whole other turf of flight crew licensing.”

One of the perpetually vexing areas of training regulations is differences between the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) with regard to lower-fidelity training devices. “Level D full flight simulators are well understood internationally,” said Rob Pritchard, who leads the performance simulation team at L-3 Link Simulation & Training in the UK. But he said it can be quite challenging for manufacturers to reconcile the conflicting fidelity requirements between FAA flight training devices (FTDs) and EASA FTDs and Flight & Navigation Procedures Trainers (FNPTs). The equipment could be more affordable, Pritchard suggested, if organisations could avoid designing for separate requirements and training centres around the world could establish a single format for devices in their portfolio.

ICAO’s Defalque is hoping that Document 9625, the 4th Edition of which was published in July 2015 and which includes material on Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) and objective motion cueing, will be incorporated into the FAA update of the “Part 60” Flight Simulation Training Device Qualification Standards.

The Part 60 update is anticipated to be released this spring, more than a year after the FAA closed the window on public comments regarding the 293-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The primary changes will focus on “Extended Envelope and Adverse Weather Event Training Tasks,” mandated by the American Congress in the wake of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 ice-induced stall and crash in Buffalo, New York in 2009.

The FAA is requiring that, beginning in March 2019 (or earlier on a voluntary basis), pilots for Part 121 air carriers must be trained on upset recovery manoeuvers, crosswind takeoffs and landings with gusts, and other new procedures. The urgency of publishing the Part 60 update is to enable simulator operators sufficient time to make the necessary technical and curriculum changes.

More than 100 comments were submitted on the NPRM, some running to dozens of pages, by aircraft manufacturers, training organisations, trade associations, and individuals.

American Airlines Flight Academy advocated “incorporating ICAO 9625 as the standard for flight training in its entirety.” However, they objected to the FAA’s proposed approach of “incorporating pieces of the standard … the FAA has attempted to pick and choose what to adopt.”

The Air Line Pilots’ Association (ALPA) expressed concern that “the NPRM proposes to allow use of Level A and B simulators for ‘wings level stalls and nose high/nose low upsets with no bank angle.’ This is not consistent with the SPAW ARC [Stick Pusher and Adverse Weather Event Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee] recommendations, which said that all this training should be conducted in level C or D simulators.” ALPA members Captain Dave McKenney and Captain Bryan Burks participated in the FAA’s SPAW ARC.

Trade group Airlines for America advocated that the FAA should allow both “representative and specific models” to fulfill full stall data and modeling requirements. ”The FAA should confirm that it will consider full stall models from others, not just an OEM [original equipment manufacturer], even when an OEM model exists. Allowing other models is consistent with the position of FAA’s Chief Scientist and Technical Advisor, Dr. Jeff Schroeder.”

EASA received public comment through November 2015 for its own 135-page Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) 2015-13 on Loss of Control Prevention and Recovery Training. EASA’s entry-into-force timeframe of the proposed requirements is April 2018. The regulators discussed the feedback in January and are expected to do so again in May.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority “strongly recommended that this training should not be restricted to MPA [multi-pilot aeroplanes] and SP HPCA [single pilot, high-performance, complex aeroplanes] in the MP [multi-pilot operations] role. This training should be embedded in all pilots from the start of training. If competence in upset recovery and prevention is not delivered effectively at the ab-initio stage, the law of primacy in education will cause any such training delivered after ab-initio (for example; at type rating conversion training) to be eclipsed by the competencies (and any inadequacies therefore) that were first taught.

Civil Rotor Mission Markup

A “Helicopter Task-specific Training” initiative to address training for specific helicopter missions such as aeromedical and search-and-rescue is making its way through a volunteer working group under the auspices of the International Pilot Training Consortium (IPTC). Group chair Gordon Wooley said a first draft of the manual covering general principles has been sent to working group members and other industry experts for comments. An expansion of the draft is intended to be ready for the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Rotorcraft Group conference on ‘Automation in Helicopters’ in London in July 2016.

Defalque has provided ICAO’s comments on the draft. “They need a lot more in terms of actual training curricula for the various missions identified. For peer review, we have identified a few experts who can comment on it from the helicopter industry.” Eventually the rotary mission training profiles will likely be published as an ICAO manual.