by Marty Kauchak

Session 1 – Opening Remarks and Keynote Addresses

John S. Duncan, the director of Flight Standard Service at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), echoed a persistent theme at this and recent WATS gatherings – that while many safety trends are improving or holding constant, “We’re using technology and data to improve performance and operational safety. We can and must improve safety.” To that end, the FAA directorate has several areas of organizational interest, including the improvement of the community’s human capital by optimizing career paths. Duncan placed this goal in perspective by noting the broader agency’s attention on safely integrating drones into the national airspace. “In the future, we’ll still need human pilots and maintainers,” he declared. Add this FAA director to the list of community leaders at 2018 WATS, who noted the health of the sector’s manning levels relies on our ability to attract the right person, keep them and for good measure, include technology in training. Duncan then discussed broader administration policy underpinnings, first noting the “compliance philosophy is the right thing to do”. While stating this philosophy is not new, it extends protection to all industry segments. The director equated compliance with enforcement and provided one data point – FAA completed 15,000 compliance actions, resulting in these problems being fixed, risks mitigated and a safer air transport system. To that end, compliance should not be misconstrued as a “kinder, gentler” philosophy. Those who make mistakes get help, and enforcement is used in instances of others unwilling or unable to remedy their problems. Duncan asserted the compliance philosophy has led to an open, transparent and robust safety culture. “Through voluntary compliance we’re also getting data to ‘fix’ problems before they surface,” he emphasized. With many community stakeholders in this Day 1 session, Duncan also said feedback is vital to the FAA, to help it improve its service and hold it accountable. And he concluded, “’No’ is never an acceptable answer, you deserve a ‘because’, an explanation.”

Honorable Earl F. Weener, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) board member, said his organization investigates about 1,500 aviation accidents annually. The organization official mapped the NTSB response process to an accident and emphasized that while NTSB does not initiate enforcement actions, about 80% of its recommendations are positively responded to. “We determine the cause not the blame – we leave that up the lawyers,” the board member wryly noted. Indeed, Weaver went on to note that NTSB meets congressional mandates through independence and objectivity. NTSB’s current “Most Wanted List” updated every two years, has a number of aviation topics of interest, including: preventing loss of control of flight in general aviation; and ending the abuse of alcohol and drug impairment, with over-the-counter drugs being one collateral focus of attention. While the nation’s aviation safety rates have continued to improve in most aircraft categories, loss of control accidents, in particular in general aviation remains a topic of concern as noted earlier. On the topic of general safety aviation safety improvement, the board member called attention to The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) http://www.gajsc.org/. The committee is a public-private partnership working to improve general aviation safety. The GAJSC uses a data-driven, consensus-based approach to analyze aviation safety data and develop risk reduction efforts. The GAJSC’s goal is to reduce the GA fatal accident rate per 100,000 flight hours by 10% from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2018, with no more than 1 fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours by 2018.

Session 2 – The Opening Act: Industry Thought Leadership

Joe Houghton, the vice president for Training and Operations Support at the Airbus Training Center Miami, literally pushed the technology envelope, when he noted the quickening pace of virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and other leading technologies for training. However, the industry expert minced no words when talking about the maturity and applicability of these technology efforts. While noting pure VR applications for training are “still primitive for what we’re looking at”, he noted an immersive VR set of glasses may be better suited And regarding AI, “It may be coming sooner than we think,” he declared. Houghton certainly had the audience’s attention when he recited a frequent adage: let’s reduce the training footprint. While noting such actions are often budget-driven, the Airbus training leader challenged the delegates to remember: “training is a precious gift, so let’s make sure we have competent training.” To that end, he declared it was necessary to seek to improve training and make it more important in the enterprise. Houghton would be the first speaker on Day 1 to call attention to the importance of instructors in the training system, indeed, calling these experts, “our real heroes”. The role of instructors remains vital in a pilot’s continuum of training, passing along learning to pilots at two important career gates: in accession training and during captain upgrade instruction.

Captain Torbjorn Wischer, CAE’s global leader for Training Strategy, used his company’s product portfolio to build the case for augmented training solutions meeting industry demands for new pilots. The industry expert presented another data point on pilot demand, offering that 225,000 new pilots will be needed globally by 2027 to meet requirements – equating to 70 pilots a day. A delegate in the post-session Q&A period asked, “How are we doing now?” The corporate training leader responded, “We are barely keeping up.” Capt. Wischer offered initial solutions to meeting the surging demand: the use of diversity to address the imbalance, addressing the maturing the pilot population, and eyeing the promotion rate of first officers to captain. On the technology side of the ledger, Wischer noted the adoption of data-based methodologies and an augmented training solution, consisting of different equipment and materiel, will further challenge and train highly capable students entering the pilot accession pipeline. To that end, he noted his company’s strengthened technology portfolio enables such learning through the continuum of instruction: starting with CAE’s overarching RISE; moving to Pelesys' aviation training management solutions; continuing through CAE’s 400/500/600XR flight training devices and culminating in CAE’s 7000XR full-flight simulator

During the Session 3’s subsequent Q&A period, there appeared to be a groundswell of support for moving efforts to educate and inform audiences about aviation careers down to the elementary school level, with STEM and other strategies. It was pointed out Halldale Media’s/2018 WATS (Day 3 Thursday track) Student Education and Careers in Aviation Program is another positive effort to build interest about aviation in younger audiences.

Session 3: Global Pilot Shortage and Primary Training Issues

“It’s all about women” when discussing the civil aviation sector’s diversity dilemma. Indeed, while globally in 2016, about 52% of the graduates in higher education were women. “But 4.4% of FAA licenses for airline transport were awarded to women,” Colin Rydon, vice president for training at L3 Commercial Training Systems (CTS), pointed out. The industry training executive offered that women have competencies often valued for successful air crew members: teamwork, communications, quick thinking and analytics. Rydon also noted access to finances are one major impediment to more women entering pilot accession programs on both sides of the Atlantic, and suggested that governments can be more supportive of enabling women, and males, to enter flight schools without the burden of concurrently having to work. To that end, airlines and training organizations, also have the opportunity to offer scholarships and financial support to motivated, qualified women. The L3CTS executive further opined that legislation is another obstacle to women entering pilot training pipelines, calling attention to the new 1500-hour rule written in US public law, as opposed to embracing competency-based training as a foundation for US civil sector aviators. Rydon highly encouraged mentoring women, in particular in their formative years.

Mentoring was a segue way into the next presentation by Captain Paul Ryder, resource coordinator for ALPA International. The speaker encouraged those present to consider the benefits of complementing their training programs with mentoring, with formal and informal strategies benefiting all stakeholders. For the airline, these initiatives help lower attrition, reduce potential crew washouts and produce better adjusted employees. Within the pilot ranks, mentoring bolsters assimilation success, reduces adjustment times and yields other advantages. The association official noted mentoring can truly reach into diverse cohorts, including newly winged pilots, high school and younger students, university flight school programs, and as significant, under represented demographic groups on the flight deck – specifically women and minorities. It’s significant to note that ALPA member pilots supporting mentoring to audiences beyond airline aircrews have been doing so voluntarily for more than 30 years. Four of the US-flag airlines with mentoring programs include United, Alaska Airlines, Envoy and Delta.

Steve Smith, FlightSafety International’s product director for MissionFIT, told delegates that new technology building blocks are rapidly maturing, or are in place, to allow the community to get on with the business of changing the paradigm in pilot training. Smith’s paradigm was familiar to most session attendees: starting with a training center for pilot accession training and continuing with centralized locations supplying recurrent or refresher training – with both venue types supported by flight training devices. The career engineer pointed to artificial intelligence and cloud computing as two instances of enabling technologies allowing training organizations to migrate learning from traditional brick and mortar sites – when necessary. Smith’s list of evolving technologies that delegates should consider integrating into learning also included a few cutting-edge ones, including human emotion algorithms. The returns on investment for changing the current pilot training paradigm are significant, the subject matter pointed out. While taking some course content out of the training center will maximize instructor effectiveness, concurrently, it will allow the organization to collect more data, build and analyze models and gain other efficiencies. The FlightSafety director further piqued the delegates’ interest when he noted that in the adjacent military sector, the US Air Force is stepping up its pace to integrate cutting-edge technologies into its pilot programs to increase the numbers of junior officers graduating from accession training and reduce pilot training time http://www.aetc.af.mil/News/Article/1462008/80th-ftw-leadership-try-out-mixed-reality-simulator/.

Session 4- S&T Regulatory Perspectives

March 2019 has resonated with attendees at recent WATS and with good reason, according to Robert Burke, the manger for Air Carrier Training Systems and Voluntary Safety Programs Branch (AFS-280) at the FAA. That is the month that all part 121 air carriers, including those who train under an Advanced Qualification Program (AQP), are required to conduct UPRT. The requirement for part 121 pilots to receive upset training is statutorily mandated in Public Law 111-216, Section 208 and the FAA does not have the authority to exempt any part 121 air carrier from this requirement. Air carriers must include UPRT for pilots during: Initial training, Transition training, Differences and related aircraft differences training (if differences exist), Upgrade training, Requalification training (if applicable), and Recurrent training. To that end, flight training devices also must be enhanced to support UPRT. A number of concurrent activities are underway to achieve these milestones. In one instance, FAA inspectors are completing academic and related training to increase their expertise and competencies in UPRT. Further, the May 17, 2018 FAA/Industry UPRT Workshop will convene in Oklahoma City, with the intent to harmonize the efforts of all stakeholders to conform with the UPRT mandates. The conference point of contact may be reached at jeffery.schroeder@faa.gov.

Marc Brogan, of the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand, is leading the effort in his nation to solidify the flight instructor’s role as a professional in the aviation training community. This activity is harmonized with one editorial focus of CAT magazine. Brogan reported his activities have a two-prong focus: in one case, to reduce general aviation accidents and at the same time, stem the loss of flight instructors. The aviation community expert matter-of-factly asked, “Can the flight training industry cope” with these trends? To that end, Brogan noted the imperative to promote flight instructing as a career, as well as addressing funding and other shortfalls leading to dual flight training accidents.

Don Dillman, the vice president Air Operations Training at FedEx Express, called attention to the status of the Air Carrier Training Advisory and Rulemaking Committee https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/afx/afs/afs200/afs280/act_arc/. The committee provides a forum for the United States aviation community to discuss, prioritize, and provide recommendations to the FAA concerning operations conducted under parts 121, 135, and 142. Dillman, the ACT ARC industry co-chair, encouraged WATS attendees to search the above web site and obtain the status on products under the organization’s oversight. The industry veteran noted while training technologies have helped mitigate training challenges, more work is on the horizon to detect and halt loss of control incidents.