It was with the development of multi-crew pilot licensing (MPL) that the change from hour-based training in ATPL to competence-based training in MPL came into effect. Mario Pierobon finds out more.

Under MPL, learning objectives are defined in competences and the acquisition of these competences does not depend on a minimum number of hours flown, landings or approaches.

So far, competence based training and assessment (CBTA) has only been available in MPL ab-initio training. However, airlines and legislators in recent years – particularly in Europe – have recognised that competence-based training can be of great value, whereas for years all pilots have trained in the same way in the regular simulator events. Evidence-based training (EBT) follows a competence-based approach that is being progressively incorporated into recurrent airline training.

Voluntary Initiative

At the moment there is not a deadline set for EBT implementation by air operators in Europe, however multiple airlines are taking steps ahead in terms of implementation. “At present, EBT is not yet required by law. However, we have been training competence-based in the MPL training programme for several years now,” said a Lufthansa Aviation Training spokesperson. “We expect EBT to be required by law sooner or later. For this reason, we work closely with our customer airlines to harmonise assessment and approaches in competence-based training in pilot ab-initio training and recurrent training.”

“The first point to make is that EBT is entirely voluntary, there are no deadlines by which any commercial air transport (CAT) operator has to meet an EBT goal. Our understanding is that a number of major European airlines are already delivering EBT for flight crew recurrent training, ahead of the EASA EBT timeline, utilising information derived from ICAO and IATA EBT implementation guides,” said Paul Ozmer, regional director of training operations at FlightSafety International. “The EBT project envisages nothing less than a total shift in the objective of pilot, instructor and evaluator training from the legacy style of ‘training to manoeuvre proficiency’, to one that utilises competency-based training and assessment in a syllabus developed from a detailed safety analysis.”

Paradigm Change

The main change EBT requires compared with traditional prescriptive air crew training is a paradigm shift in training away from the attainment of a pre-determined standard in specific manoeuvres to performance in defined areas of competency, both technical and non-technical.

“The EBT concept continues to require pilots to demonstrate ‘manoeuvre proficiency’ but aims to assess and develop performance in core competencies using behavioural indicators,” said Ozmer. “Under CBTA (the method used to deliver EBT) a competent pilot is one who demonstrates proficiency across a matrix of technical and non-technical competencies. Mastering a finite number of defined competencies will allow a pilot to manage previously unseen potentially dangerous situations in flight.”

Until now, the contents of recurrent training courses have been based on the thematic requirements of the legislator; an individual adaptation of the contents to the needs of the individual pilot was only possible to a very limited extent.

“With the introduction of EBT, check and refresher events are combined. During the check, a detailed evaluation is carried out in the individual areas of competence. The refresher event on the following day then mainly contains the areas of competence in which the pilot most likely needs training. Learning objectives are defined in competences and the acquisition of these competences does not depend on a minimum number of flight hours, landings or approaches,” said Lufthansa Aviation Training’s spokesperson. “For example, if the highlight in Refresher 1 on the Airbus A340 were, for example ‘hydraulic’, everyone in this refresher would fly the same programme under the main topic called ‘hydraulic system’. EBT on the other hand combines check and refresher events. Areas of competence and individual competences are evaluated. The refresher event on the following day will then mainly include the areas of competence in which the pilot is more likely to need training. With EBT every pilot gets a training programme that is tailored to his/her needs.”

Implementation Challenges

Besides preparing flight crews for the fundamental shift from assessment of their handling skills in prescribed manoeuvres to the assessment via behavioural indicators, the single biggest challenge is for the training community.

“Trainers and evaluators must be trained and assessed in the delivery of the CBTA methodology. EASA is preparing to work with industry to produce training media that will assist training providers in the task of developing and maintaining their cadre of instructors and assessors,” said Ozmer.

With EBT implementation both challenges and opportunities arise. “A challenge but also a great opportunity is to harmonise the evaluation and the methods in competence-based training in pilot training (ab-initio) and in recurrent training. We work closely with the airlines to define and implement common standards,” said Lufthansa Aviation Training’s spokesperson. “For the approved training organisations (ATO), but especially for the users (both the examiners and trainers) this simplifies the general framework of training, as the same evaluation criteria and evaluation systems may then be used for ab-initio and recurrent training.”

Benefits

For airline operators the adoption of EBT means a visible commitment to safer flight operations conducted by more resilient and more effectively trained and assessed flight crews.

“EBT operators will be in the vanguard of the industry due to the safety and resilience dividend associated with CBTA. For pilots, the principal benefit of EBT is that their recurrent training (and, eventually initial and other forms of training) is focussed in areas that take account of a wide span of essential pilot competencies, competencies derived from the IATA Data Report and later safety analyses conducted by EASA) which found distinct ‘aircraft generational differences’ in patterns of existing risk that are not adequately addressed by current training methods and objectives,” said Ozmer. “Trainees should find that they have more scope to practice what matters, more time in flight simulator training devices (FSTD) to develop resilience in a range of scenarios and competence in the areas that require consolidation, in an environment that is less focused on the ‘check-ride’ and more on the learning environment of performance that will actually indicate where competence needs a helping hand.”

“With EBT every pilot gets a training program tailored to his/her needs, which further significantly increases the effectiveness of training. EBT simplifies the training structure for ATOs, but especially for users, since the same evaluation criteria and evaluation systems can be used for pilot training (ab-initio) and recurrent training,” said Lufthansa Aviation Training.

Targeting

With EBT, airlines are enabled to customise their crew training syllabi based on the safety data they collect. “Instead of training the same topics over and over again, airlines can focus on fleet and pilot specific training needs. Therefore there is a customisation in the overall recurrent training syllabi as well as within an EBT module, in which the content of day two is based on the training needs identified on day one, as each EBT module consists of two days of training,” said Lufthansa Aviation Training.

“We understand that airlines are customising their training syllabi to reflect the challenges and risks encountered in their specific flying operations and the generational issues relevant to their current fleet types. Airlines are working with their respective National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) to develop and have approved the most effective (tailored) EBT syllabus,” said Ozmer. “At this stage of early development it is probable that operators and their NAAs are learning together and sharing the information with other stakeholders. One advantage of EBT programmes is the requirement for feedback, review, critique and adjustment; some NAAs may lack ‘in depth’ expertise in this area but the new basic regulation (NBR) arriving soon in Europe has guidance on EASA’s mandate to assist NAAs with issues such as EBT, performance based oversight and similar Part-ARA obligations.” 

Published in CAT issue 4/2018