Jennifer Sunderman, Director of Operations for Safety and Technical Services for the Regional Airline Association (RAA), led off the RATS morning session by discussing the regional airlines workforce challenges and the RAA’s proposed R-ATP Pathway solution, the RAA Air Carrier Pilot Training (ACE) Program. Sunderman described the shrinking pilot pool between the ages of 29 and 52. And while there is a high number of applications for regional pilot positions, only about 25 percent were considered desirable enough to be hired, she said.

Sunderman also outlined the RAA’s new proposed Air Carrier Enhanced (ACE) R-ATP Pathway, which she described as a comprehensive pathway to a restricted ATP certification for new pilots. A major focus for the ACE R-ATP will be on pilot screening and selection.

The RAA is working with the FAA to consider the ACE program that will allow pilots sufficient credit, and a one that it will increase the quality of the airline pilot.

Rob Burke, Manager, FAA Air Carrier Training Systems and Voluntary Safety Programs Branch (AFS-280), discussed the latest FAA regulatory developments and how they could affect Part 121 training providers, focusing more on the Part 60 rulemaking process. He also anticipates a final ruling on Safety Management Systems in 2018.  He also provided an update on the progress of the Air Carrier Training ARC and rulemaking activities.

Nancy Shane, Assistant Professor of Aviation, Farmingdale State College, covered a study that she conducted on the after-effects of the 2013 First Officer Qualification ruling on pilot new hire performance. The purpose of this study was to determine how a pilot’s background and aeronautical experience before being hired at a regional airline affects those new hire pilots’ performance during initial training at a regional airline. The results and analysis of her study may offer insight into what will make a successful pilot, ultimately assisting airlines in more effective recruiting, hiring and training during this new reality in the aviation industry.

Captain Paul Preidecker, Chief Flight Instructor for Air Wisconsin, led off the mind-morning RATS track Session 6 by discussing the topic of the need for change management while maintaining standards and training quality. There is no question there’s been a change in the demographics for new hire pilots, he pointed out. New challenges such as the development and operation of the recently required ATP-CTP training programs are adding to the challenge of training regional airline new hires, he added. Compounding the issue is regionals are losing their instructors to major airlines, and that an influx of new hires with non-traditional backgrounds is increasing the training footprint time for them at regional airlines, he summed up.

Captain Paul Kolisch, Manager of Flight Operations Training for Endeavor Air, challenged the assumption that the FAA is responsible for some airline accidents, since it had not established regulations for the unique circumstances that led to those certain accidents. Instead, Kolish pointed out that since the owners of the aircraft have the responsibility to operate their airplanes as safely as possible, the owners (the airlines) should train their pilots as well as possible to meet the challenges they may face. In particular, Kolish stressed the need for airlines to place more emphasis on manual flight skills during training.

Kent Lovelace, Professor & Director of Aviation Industry Relations for the University of North Dakota (UND), addressed the issue of the looming critical shortage of Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs). He reported that that the most critical problem area is in the rapidly decreasing number of multi-engine-rated CFIs, although he cited that there is a critical shortage of CFIs at all levels due to the overall pilot shortage. Lovelace also addressed the increasing problem of the lack of professionalism of newly graduated CFIs at UND that are mostly related to the emerging generational attitudes of younger students. Due to this situation, UND has initiated a new program focused on helping the university’s CFIs grow and mature towards the goal of more successful professional careers.

In the RATS Breakout 1 afternoon session - Partnerships and Solutions, Jim Barbour, Director of Flight Operations Training for ExpressJet Airlines, explained that there are a lot of benefits from gathering the large volumes of AQP data, other than the fact that doing so is required by the FAA for compliance to the rule. In fact, he said that this data really serves as the backbone for the airline’s training program, and helps make managing it more efficient. He outlined four key areas where utilizing collected AQP data serves as a benefit to the airline. They are in the Strategic, Tactical and Business Intelligence areas, as well as serving as a free audit source. By employing this data, the airline can find out which pilot or instructor needs training help in certain areas, for example, he cited. Another key area of employing AQP data is in the further development of the airline’s instructors, he added. Another benefit of making use of this data is that is has completely eliminated the need for the use of paper records throughout the training department.

Dr. Guy Smith, Associate Professor of Graduate Studies for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), described some of the outcomes of the Pilot Source Study 2015, which was designed to determine the effect of Public Law 111-216 on US regional airlines after its effective date. August 1, 2013. The study collected records for 6,734 Part 121 regional airline pilots from 19 US regional airlines to determine the effect of pilots’ backgrounds on their performance in regional airline training and operations after the implementation of the First Officer Qualification rule.

Some of the final results of the study showed that 13.5 percent of the new pilots in the study did not complete their regional airline training, Smith reported. Other results included 29 percent of the pilots who required extra training events to become qualified. Also, 12 percent required extra Initial Operating Experience (IOE), and 8 percent required extra recurrent training. But one major conclusion was that pilots with less than 1500 hours previous to entering regional airline training took less time to complete that training. A following conclusion was that more flying hours did not relate to better pilot performance, a conclusion that affirms what the airline industry has said,  that more student pilot hours before being hired by regional airlines does not lead to better-performing pilots, Smith emphasized.

Arianna Hoffmann, Research Analyst and Pilot Selection Specialist, for Human Capital Management & Performance LLC pointed out that performance during new hire pilot training is a critical indicator of long-term success at any airline. It should be used to evaluate the probationary pilot as well, she added. However, the attitude and behavior of new hire pilots is often overlooked as a criterion of the pilot’s potential for safe operation and overall career success, so should be considered in the performance evaluation process, Hoffman summed up.

Lynne McMullen, Chair of the School of Aviation, Seneca College, Toronto and Captain Steve Linthwaite of Jazz airlines provided a joint description of their joint college and flight school program as a response to the pilot shortage in Canada. This presentation was designed to provide an alternative suggestion for US pilot pathway programs.

Rounding up the RATS track was a discussion panel made up of Courtney Dennis, Manager of Pilot Recruiting and Hiring, ExpressJet Airlines, Jonathon Reibach, Embraer 175 Training Manager, Envoy Air and Brad Tulin, Fleet Manager for PSA Airlines. Members of this panel outlined their airlines’ new pilot recruiting incentives to find qualified candidates.  Sign-on bonuses, retention incentives, and partnerships with flight schools and universities were some of the efforts discussed during the panel, along with the success levels of these efforts.