In recent years, Airbus has regularly been displaying its thoughts about how aviation might look in the future, with examples stretching as far ahead as 2050. On day one of WATS 2017, the OEM took a look at what major changes are potentially going to take place in pilot training between now and 2030.

The vehicle for his examination saw Captain Harry Nelson Executive Ops Advisor to VP Airbus Safety taking a “look back at today’s training from 2030” with ‘Capt Abeona’, who in the film "recalls" the training she did to become a “Commander”. As might be expected 'Capt Abeona' said that data is central to everything her “airline” does.

Then came the statement which led to these thoughts. 'Capt Abeona' reported that with constant monitoring of people’s skills and health, recurrent training “was done away with years ago”. I highlighted this comment to a fellow journalist, who wondered how pilots might feel about being monitored so closely while on duty.

Mulling this further, perhaps it is the win–win situation that pilots and airlines have been seeking for some time. If you think about it, if a pilot is monitored in the manner suggested, an airline can check that the pilot is fit and healthy and not fatigued. Any ‘bad apple’ who constantly calls in sick or tired can be spotted.

However, for the pilot, it could present a situation which protects them. For example, what if a pilot is scheduled to fly, say, six sectors in a day, but on sectors three and four he and his colleague have turbulent flights which require all the airmanship at their disposal. The airline’s flight operations department would be able to tell how much their efforts had taken out of them and perhaps decide that the pair should not have to fly the last two sectors.

Would that lead to the pilots losing money by not performing the remaining two flights planned for them that day? Well no, it definitely should not. Because what left them in that fatigued condition was getting their aircraft and the passengers whose lives depended on their skills through two tough flights. Their early removal from operations without penalty would actually underline the notion of a win–win, the pilots being rewarded for their efforts and the airline knowing that those last two flights of the day are being flown by pilots whose health data says that they are fresh and alert.

Of course, there will have to be negotiations over how such personal health data is treated. Sometimes it can be made anonymous for overall trends to be observed, sometimes it will need firewalls and only limited access to those who truly need to know.

Used well though, an end to flight and duty time limitation arguments could make for another thing about which 'Capt Abeona' might have said, “It was done away with years ago.”

By Bernie Baldwin, CAT contributor