Chris Long travels to New Zealand and takes an in-depth look at the training expertise of the national airline.

Recognising that its geographical distance from major training providers could make it expensive to use external training solutions, Air New Zealand has chosen to cater for its own training needs in house. This not only controls the cost of outsourcing, but also facilitates close control of the style and quality of training provided for all its team. With that in mind, it needed to continue to provide training across the board in all aviation skills for present and future operational needs.

Beginning in 2006, the solution was to gradually bring the internal training resources together into the Air New Zealand Aviation Institute (ANZAI), and this was achieved in 2011. The aim, according to Jignasha Patel, General Manager, was to install themes which reflect the national character across all the disciplines. It was seen as important to share the Air New Zealand brand and ethos, to let people be themselves within the organisation, to welcome colleagues as friends, and to maintain a can-do attitude. The flat hierarchy (few management levels) and the natural national flair for open dialogue embraces frequent information flow - with considerable emphasis on the two-way nature of that dialogue to identify and rapidly rectify problems.

Drivers

A small country (population of 4.5 million) needs to be nimble, and able to respond rapidly to change. Consequently the training tasks need to be closely targeted and addressed. Four specialist schools have been established within the ANZAI, and these encompass all the operational roles, from ground handling, through customer services, engineering and flight deck. Whilst training could be managed solely for the airline, it was recognised that an independent and globally-recognised standard would have a broader reach and approval. The customer base was likely to require EASA regulation so, in concert with the UK CAA, training syllabus and flight simulator approvals to EASA standards are now the baseline for 3rd party customer training activities

School of Flight

The draw of the national carrier is such that there is no shortage of pilots who wish to fly with the airlines in the Air New Zealand Group. As well as the brand leader, Mount Cook Airlines, based in Christchurch, Air Nelson, strangely enough based in Nelson, and Eagle Airlines at Hamilton, operate a range of regional aircraft, and these serve as the entry level aircraft for many pilots joining the group. Pilots are recruited into these carriers with a minimum of around 1000 hours, with many having come from four preferred flight training organisations in New Zealand where they will have completed a suitable Airline Integration Course to bridge the gap between licensing requirements and airline operations, followed by a period of hour building. Some of these FTOs provide education to degree level alongside the Commercial Pilot Licence training.

Once these pilots start with Air New Zealand Group the type rating and recurrent training is undertaken on the range of flight training devices listed in the sidebar. After a period of time on the regional aircraft (Beech 1900 - this type will be retired later this year, Bombardier Q300 and ATR 72) many pilots can expect to progress to the jet fleet. The Boeing 767 is expected to be retired in late 2017, so then the jet fleet will consist of three types - the A320, Boeing 787-9 and Boeing 777-200s and 300s. New deliveries of A320 & 787-9 aircraft is on-going.

Illustrative of the innovation which lies at the heart of the ANZ philosophy is the early adoption of RNP using a Head Up Display, and that started with the operation into Queenstown on the South Island. Captain Duncan McLean (Manager Flight Standards) explains that this challenging operation using the A320 requires captain-only approaches and departures, although, naturally, the RNP approaches demand very close flight deck teamwork to both brief and fly the complex procedure. VFR approaches are no longer authorised. In a first in New Zealand, RNP night time operations into Queenstown will shortly be approved. The thorough preparation for this involved not just the airline, but also the regulator and a Human Performance specialist who was brought in to understand the pilot’s scanning and decision-making characteristics using, amongst other tools, a leading-edge eye-tracking device. Early simulator details using this tool revealed precise information on where and how often pilots derived their information at each stage of the approach.

The expertise built up on this RNP operation led to a North Atlantic airline completing its initial RNP training in New Zealand prior to their starting the first European operation of this type.

School of Engineering

Led by Ken Newlands (Engineering Training Manager) the engineering training to comply with EASA Part 147 is carried out at the ANZAI in Christchurch. On-airfield environmentally-friendly premises have recently been opened to house the training facility for apprentice engineers. Although primarily for future ANZ maintenance teams, there is a thriving intake of young engineers from the likes of Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Indonesia who comprise both sponsored and privately funded students, and who are fully integrated into exactly the same course as their New Zealand colleagues. As well as the mandatory skills required to pass the course there is great emphasis on the “soft’ skills of Human Factors and Performance.

The selection for the course is rigorous, with school records and performance checked with an Air New Zealand test in maths, physics and English language which is delivered online. These are video monitored, with keystrokes checked to pick up any aberration.

Air New Zealand innovation shows up again here in the flow of course delivery. A classic EASA 147/66 course requires module exams to be taken very early - as soon as week three, and the separate disciplines are addressed in a strict sequential order. On the Christchurch campus there is a much more realistic introduction to the necessary skills. The first 36 weeks of the ab initio course consist of mixed theory and practical work covering all aspects, including regulation and legislation; only in week 37 does the trainee begin to take module exams. By this time they have understood the underlying requirements and disciplines of the aviation world, and, particularly for the international students, are acclimatised to the new environment and much better equipped to undertake the exams. The first phase of training includes the baseline subjects for both B1 and B2 qualifications, so that students and instructors can identify which discipline is best suited to the individual’s skills before they have to specialise.

Many of the approximately 30 domestic students who start every year, will be employed by Air New Zealand. The others will have help in finding placement at other aviation organisations, or engineering disciplines, where the fundamental skills and quality of training are recognised. Close to 50 positions are available annually for international students.

Once finished, a further two years of On-the Job Training (OJT) can be facilitated which will  lead to the full Licenced Engineer Qualification. This can be achieved at either the co-located Air New Zealand MRO facility at Christchurch, or with other engineering companies, such as the nearby regional Pratt and Whitney facility. The inaugural course for the EASA qualification started in 2012 and the first graduates to achieve full Licensed Engineer status will graduate in August 2016.

School of Service

Gloria Ewe Aircrew Training Team Leader, says that the number of new recruits is about 250 per year, and that selection of cabin crew is critical, favouring those with a hospitality background. Given the strong reputation of the airline and the desire to be part of a winning team, there is no shortage of volunteers. Phase 1 of training lasts for 4-5 weeks and is 50% regulatory and 50% customer service. Phase 2, the line training of 1-2 weeks duration depending on the number of sectors, is followed by a final assessment “Checked to Line”. Fleet allocation is a function of the current airline need, but progression through to the premium cabins can occur after six months of service. London-based crews are trained in London, and the Shanghai-based crew complete their training in New Zealand.

Although the relevance of specific training is already emphasised through scenario-based training, from September 2016 a new training concept will be introduced. This will take a “Day in the Life” framework to lead trainees through the entire range of cabin crew disciplines, right from appropriate self-grooming, to adherence to daily timelines, fatigue management and continue through to normal operation and potential emergency drills.

The cabin crew are mentored throughout their career, with Team Managers looking after groups of about 30 crew each. There are performance reviews at the end of each flight which help to shape individual development plans. Careers usually progress via promotion to In Flight Service Manager (short-haul and mid-haul groups), or as a Flight Service Manager on the long haul group. Individuals can also apply to become online trainer and checkers. Management roles within the broader company are also encouraged for those who identify that as a personal goal.

Front and back of house training for airports is led by Sarah Rundle, School of Ground Operations Training Manager. Air New Zealand was a pioneer in using kiosks for self check-in and bag drop. Skills required at a check-in desk are less relevant, but there is very specific training in the guiding of customers through the self-check, luggage tagging and bag drop procedures. This requires a gentle coaching approach to customers - a different skill set from an earlier generation of ground staff.

No airline can operate without the support of well-trained ground support teams. Whilst not necessarily immediately visible to the customers, all those who work behind the scenes in areas like bag handling are critical to providing the service to customers. It only requires a delay or one piece of lost baggage to create a strong reaction from those passengers. The relative sophistication of the baggage handling and tracking engenders specific training and understanding of those teams to ensure a smooth service. Those who work directly on the ramp also have a critical role to play, and, given the holistic approach to training put in place by Air New Zealand, it is considered essential to cater for the training in those functions as well.

Results

Air New Zealand has consistently looked to innovation as a way to continually improve and provide customer service to the highest level. As a medium-sized airline with a modern fleet of about 100 aircraft (see sidebar) the pressure is always on to seek out efficiencies through effective training. Recent excellent financial results following the restructuring which has taken place over recent years means that it is one of the very few (possibly the unique) airline(s) to be rated as a “Buy” by Moodys - an impressive independent judgement. Air New Zealand can deservedly stand alongside the formidable All Blacks rugby world champions as a worthy national flag carrier.

Full Flight Simulators

Aircraft In Service/Upgrade Level Regulator Standard Engine
A320 2003/14 D NZCAA 1.8 HUD IAE
A320 2014 D NZCAA EASA 1.8 HUD IAE
ATR72-500 2010 D NZCAA EASA PW
ATR72-600 2015 D NZCAA EASA 2.0 PW
B1900D 2013 D NZCAA n/a PW
B737-300 2001 D NZCAA n/a CFM
B767 1986 C NZCAA n/a GE
B777-300ER 2010 D NZCAA AIMS II BP15 GE
B787-8 2014 D NZCAA RR
Q300 2005 D NZCAA n/a PW
 
Aircraft In Operation On Order
A320 28 2
A320/321 NEO 0 13
ATR72-500 11 0
ATR72-600 9 20
B1900D 7 0
B767 5 0
B777-200ER 8 0
B777-300ER 7 0
B787-9 6 6
Q300 23 0
Total 104 41