Ahead of the Student Education and Careers in Aviation (SECA) conference being held on 19 April 2018 in Orlando FL. as part of the World Aviation Training Summit, Captain Kevin W. Daisey from Hawaiian Airlines, who is speaking at SECA, offers his thoughts on the next generation of airline professionals.
“Dad, I want to be a pilot when I grow up… that’s what I want to be”. My son's determination remains stronger today than it was when he first uttered those words some eight years ago. Now, at 19 he continues to study and spend time at the local airport, holding fast to his earliest heart’s desire.
Against that backdrop and my own 40+ years in and around both major and regional airlines, I ponder the importance of finding the next generation of airline professionals. Over the years, I’ve flown, taught, trained and managed an abundance of 'Steam Gauge' transport category airplanes along with those having highly automated cockpits. I reflect upon basic stick-and-rudder flying skills alongside organizational system essentials like advanced automation, flight management systems and automatic-landing low minimum flight operations.
Certainly some things have changed over the years, while others remain constant. Corporate America and the airline industry have evolved. Like the cockpit, pilot training methods have adopted technological improvements. Along the way, the airline industry has found it necessary to change their culture with safety, financial and marketing needs in mind. Safety Management Systems have necessitated organizational proactivity, replacing the mere reactive ideals of yesterday.
Airlines both large and small oftentimes give consideration to these sorts of initiatives differently, making air carriers and their future pilot candidates diverse.
Higher learning institutions continue to instill a Discipline also demanded on the present day flight deck. Stick-and-Rudder Competencies remain predominant and their importance can never be overestimated.
These foundational skills can’t be replaced simply by automation. Najmedin Meshkati, Engineering Professor at the University of California1, reminds the flight deck automation enthusiast, “Human ingenuity can now create technological systems whose accidents rival in their effects the greatest natural disasters, sometimes with even higher death tolls and greater environmental damage… Studies have shown that automation is even more problematic because it amplifies crew individual differences and it amplifies what is good and what is bad.”
Furthermore, Meshkati notes “The effects of human error on these systems is often neither observable nor reversible, therefore error recovery is often too late or impossible.” Hence, modern day higher generation cockpit operations are well served by disciplined flight crewmember professionals that are concurrently trained and proficient in Automation Competencies for the operating of complicated, complex systems while demonstrating basic piloting skills.
Again, Meshkati speaks regarding “Back to basics” piloting warning that gee-whizz technology “May be masking a deterioration and de-skilling in basic flying ability and that the lessons learned by generations of pilots may be lost to the new breed of pilots.” As my son sets his sights on high as a next generation Airline Professional, may he be found to be a disciplined young airman with piloting and automation understanding, skills and competencies along with a good healthy dose of work ethic and common sense.
1 Thomas, Meshkati. (October 2011). Wake-Up Call; The lessons of AF447 and other recent high-automation aircraft incidents have wide training implications; Air Transport World, 39-43.