Chris Long travelled to New Zealand to investigate the training and simulation capabilities of this small country which consistently punches above its weight.
One of the astonishing things about this country is that, within a population of 4.5 million, there is both so much aviation history and current innovation. The interest stems from several sources; the principal one is that the population is dispersed over two main islands and relies on aviation as a prime means of transport. The relatively remote location has bred a great independence of spirit and that has generated innovative solutions - even to the point of developing powered flight about the time of the Wright brothers (Google Richard Pearse, a New Zealand farmer) right through to the current production of an aircraft with unique properties - the Martin JetPack. Finally there is a widespread socio-economic embracing of innovation as a natural tool and aspiration.
Air New Zealand CAT 2/2016 covers the training capabilities of Air New Zealand in some depth, but within that the constant search for improved solutions are evidenced by the work on RNPs, targeted use of HUDs, and close work with the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, all of which show a mindset well suited to selective change. As John Ogilvie, Business Development manager at Air New Zealand Aviation Institute, points out, the close cooperation with, amongst others, the Christchurch Engine Centre in the On the Job Training of recently graduated apprentices, shows the broader reach and support of training. Sitting at the top of the national civil aviation tree, this model is in clear view for others committed to aviation and is often the aspirational goal.
Education The marriage of academic study and aerospace has frequently been a fruitful one, and a prime example of this is at Massey University, based in Palmerston North. Ashok Poduval, CEO of the School of Aviation at Massey, indicates that the primary drivers are the academic goals, right through to PhD studies, but that the research in both human factors and technology has led to the development of an entirely new pattern of pilot training. The traditional path to CPL/IR has been accomplished through the accumulation of hours of both theory and practical exercises, culminating in small number of final tests, usually carried out by the designated examiner from the national authority.
The Massey solution takes a more holistic approach. For those taking a Bachelor degree in Aviation, a selection process is the first step - not simply on academic and language proficiency, but also using the Symbiotics battery of tests and interviews. As Chief Flying Instructor Craig Whyte enthuses, the training uses the framework of carefully defined scenarios to familiarise the student with the roles and skills expected of a professional pilot, but always in a context which illustrates the rationale behind those requirements and in which soft skills are emphasised. There are many examples of that, (see illustration) but without doubt it engages the attention of the students and, in a generation which wants to understand the relevance of training goals, satisfies that criterion. Because the entire profile has been defined and tested with formal academic rigour, both the training and the (13) separate tests prior to licence issue can be carried out by the CAA examiners or by designated Massey or external examiners.
Given that this process includes an Airline Bridging Course to complete the preparation for professional flight operations, the graduates, who will have 220-250 hours training and an MCC, are ready for the commercial world. What is striking is the greatly improved success rate of this pattern when compared with the classic training - the exam/test failure rate from 2007-2009 was 22%, with the new system running through 2010-2012 it was 9%.
Ab Initio Pilot Training Illustrating the immediate international reach of ab initio pilot training in New Zealand is the CTC Aviation operation at Hamilton. The very clear task here is to provide pilots who are more than capable of directly entering the airlines immediately on completion of their training. Run by Pete Stockwell, this facility exhibits all the characteristics of a state-of-the-art training platform, with spacious and airy buildings, modern aircraft and crisp, functional syllabi. This successful format means that the student caucus has a primarily international population, with a mix of both private individuals and a range of cadet pilot schemes. Since its opening, trainees who have completed bespoke airline pilot career syllabi with CTC Aviation here comprise airlines from around the globe including British Airways, easyJet, Flybe, IndiGo, the JetStar Group, Oman Air, Dragonair, Qatar Airways and Royal Brunei Airlines.
With the normal number of students in residence of around 200 and an annual throughput of approximately 400, this training system not only satisfies the present demand, but is well placed to continue the response to the global pilot shortage for the foreseeable future.
Aircraft Manufacture & Supporting Training There is still a small but highly-focused aircraft manufacturing facility in Hamilton. Hand crafting the Pacific Aerospace P-750XSTOL multi role utility aircraft uses skills which may have faded elsewhere, but which produce a very robust workhorse for use in some of the more demanding operating environments around the world. This single-turboprop machine can take off and land in less than 800 feet while carrying a load greater than its own empty weight. Its normal habitat is a long way away from sophisticated maintenance centres, so Damian Camp, CEO, has made sure that Pacific Aerospace has put in place a comprehensive training system to bring the maintenance and flight crews to a level of competency where they can operate to normal global competency standards. This training can be delivered either at Hamilton or, more frequently, at their operating bases which range, amongst others, from Papua New Guinea to deep within China. The grouping of the manufacturing base and training facilities together means that there is an immediate access to the whole of the OEM knowledge base - a considerable plus.
Airways As the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) for New Zealand, Airways, headquartered in Christchurch, not only has the responsibility for the management of airspace over and around the country (some 7.5% of the world’s surface) but also for developing and delivering training for both domestic air traffic service personnel and international customers.
Its training arm, Airways Training, is certificated under NZCAA Parts 172 and 141 for domestic and international training and it was the first ANSP in the world to achieve EASA training organisation certification under the new EU 2015/340 regulation. Its Syllabi are aligned to ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices as well as to EASA regulations. Great emphasis is placed on the essential safety culture which underlies all ATC operation, so the soft skills are an integral part of its competency standards.
For its international trainees aviation English is an essential start point and, in conjunction with leading members of the ICAO Price Study Group, it has developed a comprehensive Aviation English interactive learning package to improve English language skills across all six ICAO descriptors. All the training can, if necessary, be adapted to customer sovereign requirements, and can be delivered anywhere. Airways Training’s success can perhaps be measured by the fact that 75% of the training is for repeat international customers.
The innovative element comes from the fact that this entire process is being put onto a cloud-based distribution platform, known as Airline Knowledge Online (AKO - which just happens to be the Maori word for Knowledge and Learning). This embraces present understanding of learning processes and collective involvement/responsibility. All users, students, instructors, and other aviation training academies (see slide 14) have portals which give access to learning materials, digital applications and reporting tools. It allows them to form a learning community where they are able to collaborate and work more effectively together.
An example of one digital application available as part of AKO or as a standalone training tool, is Airbooks. Airbooks enable trainees to study anywhere, anytime, either separately or collectively and to use their social media skills which came naturally to NETGen learners. They can exchange ideas and ask questions from within their Airbook. Each Airbook has easy-to-navigate menus for the learning content which includes quizzes, videos and gaming technologies to engage and motivate the user to learn more and guide improvement.
Pacific Simulators Increasingly there is a very successful cross-fertilisation from the gaming/entertainments industry into the simulation business. A case in point is Pacific Simulators, based in Christchurch. Conceived by Russell Hubber in 2002, he bought the company back in 2010, and the team is now going from strength to strength, guided in large part by Iain Pero. Whilst the entertainment element is doing well through the Flight Entertainment franchise, the parallel development of the training market has taken off as the credibility has been established. A break through contract was the purchase by a large aircraft OEM of two devices for R&D projects. The first devices were in-house build of the cockpit framework and detail, driven by reversed engineered software. The evolution is now moving to recycling the forward section of a parted-out aircraft, using original throttles and main controls. Panels and systems are recycled in Christchurch, and negotiations are also underway to use the OEM software for the new generation of devices. Several levels of training aid are available, from desk top trainers to cockpit-based units. The underlying principle is to select COTS solutions where possible (for instance the cockpit video monitor is a GoPro unit) and to invest in high quality visual. Given that initially the units were made to be robust enough to stand up to the entertainment business, the underlying strength this provides is a good base as the operating refinements are added in. The company focus now is to promote the training device options.
Julian D’Arcy, Head of Flight Operations and Training, says that the latest version, the EuroJet Series PS4.5 FTD is based on a fly-by-wire narrow body jet airliner. Future plans include upgrading the ProJet FJ2000 FTD which will raise the game to a projected FAA Level 4. With 37 devices of both streams delivered worldwide there is proof that both markets have responded to this refreshing concept.
Martin Jetpack Innovation alone is not enough to get to the start line; a vision and the determination to drive it through are essential ingredients to success. When in 1981 Glenn Martin dreamt of making a practical jetpack with more than 30 seconds endurance, it is unlikely that he would have seen the length of time it would take, and the form of the final aircraft. As Michael Read, VP of Flight Operations is keen to emphasise, the term aircraft accurately reflects exactly what has developed from the original idea. The drive to get a practical device has resulted in a system that has an impressive performance (see sidebar) and the Christchurch-based factory will start production in the second half of 2016 and begin shipping to the First Responder market. So what is it that that has excited the interest? The aircraft has a platform on which the pilot stands (see image) and which is guided by two sidekick controllers. With a payload of 120 kgs and great ease of operation, there is a huge potential for use with first responders. Not only is there a manned version, but the unmanned version is also available. This latter version can either be pre-positioned as a lifeboat, ready to take survivors to a pre-determined safe zone, or deployed to carry out the same task - for instance to evacuate from the top of a burning high-rise or in SAR operations. At the moment the uses are only limited by the imagination. And that imagination is not lacking at the base and factory in Christchurch, where Martin Aircraft Company revels in recruiting those who have an original approach. Enthusiasm, passion and technical competence are the bedrock of this organisation. The aircraft has been designed to be safe in all modes, and includes a ballistic parachute as well as fly-by-wire controls which simply stabilise the aircraft in an upright hover when released. The left hand sidestick controller is a twist-stick throttle, which controls altitude by varying thrust; it incorporates a motor stop/start button. The right hand controller both tilts left and right to control roll, and twists to input yaw commands. Co-ordination of the roll and yaw inputs facilitate balanced turns so that manoeuvres can be precisely flown. The training regimes are being determined, but given that the basics are fairly simple, it is likely that an introduction using a desk top trainer will serve as an introduction to the full flight simulator, making the training process rapid and straightforward. The simulator consists of the pilot’s module, complete with the controls, mounted on a platform which itself is raised to 30cms and which is moved by six electric motor jacks to provide a motion cueing input. A virtual reality headset provides a realistic virtual world and the trainee can then carry out a representative range of manoeuvres with a high degree of fidelity. The intuitive controls rapidly give the confidence to be able to “fly” the simulator to a designated touch down point with a surprising degree of accuracy (visible on the associated video monitor). Work is still ongoing to determine the optimum training solutions for the manned and unmanned versions. The certification process will initially categorise the aircraft as a rotorcraft, and this will be the first step before certification as an aircraft in the recreational category. The first tranche of pilots will hold pilot qualifications, so that they will already be familiar with the requirements of controlled/uncontrolled airspace, weather etc. and have the confidence of the regulatory authorities. This niche market of simple VTOL transport has not yet been filled - the Martin Jetpack appears to be an answer.
National Reach New Zealand continues its interest in aviation across a very broad range of disciplines. That is not likely to change, so the world can continue to expect new thinking and technology from this beautiful and surprising country.