The awareness of the potentially chronic shortage of commercial pilots has now extended to the general public as the mass media highlights the issue. Chris Long speaks to Airbus about their latest initiative.

Within the industry, the wakeup call has spurred some of the airlines and, in particular, the aircraft manufacturers, into action. They can foresee the impact on sales and deliveries if crews are not available to operate the swelling numbers of airframes. Another issue getting some attention is the potential impact on safety of crews who are inadequately trained. Here there have been positive developments in the implementation of fundamentals of Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBTA), in which qualifications are awarded as a result of proof of competency in a skill, as opposed to mere accumulation of training credits of one sort or another.

At EATS (European Airline Training Symposium) last year, Captain Jean-Michel Bigarré, Airbus Head of Flight Training, spoke of addressing those issues through the establishment of the Career Path, in which carefully calibrated qualifications beyond simple licence issue could be driven by additional Airbus-led courses, such as Command/Instructor/Examiner, all of which are firmly based on the CBT philosophy.

Airbus has now turned its attention to the critical ab initio training process, which must lay the foundations of a professional mindset which is essential to sustain a pilot throughout her/his career. The Airbus ab initio Pilot Cadet Training Programme is a wholly Airbus developed process, which embraces the CBT concept from the start, and will ultimately smoothly link to the other courses in the Airbus repertoire. The course follows the EASA Integrated ATPL pattern, and has been developed by a dedicated Airbus Ab Initio Team. This team is responsible for overseeing the delivery and the standardisation of the course when used by selected flight schools.

The course content (see sidebar) reflects the regulatory imperatives, but with the concept of CBT so deeply embedded, it is designed to address the issue of building thorough pilot skill sets.

The Escuela de Aviacion Mexico (EAM), located near to the Airbus Mexico Training Centre, has been selected as the first of what will be a global network of training schools to deliver this programme. After completing their initial training with EAM, cadets will qualify at the Airbus Mexico Training Centre to become Airbus A320 pilots. This school, equipped with a mixture of Cessna and Diamond aircraft types, will use its own instructors once they have been standardised by the Airbus team.

Recruits will shortly be selected from a global pool of applicants, starting with an online screening process, followed by an on-site (Mexico) two day series of assessments. These will comprise aptitude and personality checks, followed by a technical and English test, and finally group exercises, an interview and simulator assessment. A further condition of continuing the training is that, after completing 18 flights / one month, a further check on progress will confirm suitability for ongoing training. The first course is slated to start training in January 2019 for the 18-20 months necessary for completion.

There is no revolution in the funding - the existing variations of self-sponsored/part sponsored or full sponsorship will depend on the level of commitment from the airlines, and the cost will be in line with market prices.

This first school will cater for up to 200 cadets per year, and the plan is to rollout four to five additional schools per year to access the worldwide market. This Airbus response is aimed at contributing to the build-up of pilot numbers and to improving the quality of newly-qualified crews. The power of the Airbus brand should make it an attractive proposition for new entrants. 

Course Content:
•  750+ hours of theoretical ATPL
•  200 FH (in aircraft & simulator)

For the Mexico programme:
Aircraft: Cessna 152/172; DA40 & 42
Simulator: BITD, FNPT II, A320 FTD/FFS

Published in CAT issue 4/2018