Taiwanese international airline EVA Air can boast of a culture that embraces continuous improvement and investment in training. Chris Long finds out more.
The founder of EVA Air, Dr. Y.F. Chang, started the airline in 1989. Before offices were built, the aircraft delivered, and even before the airline was fully registered, Dr. Chang, who started his working life in the maritime world, triggered the construction of the Training Centre. His extensive experience at sea had impressed on him the criticality of training in an environment in which the challenges of weather and the importance of human skills are very similar to the sea-borne world.
The motor behind the airline was the massive Evergreen Group, which has major global presence in disciplines including shipping, cargo distribution, air transportation and hotels. The group also includes EGAT - the engineering company, which was selected by Boeing to convert four B747-400 aircraft to the massive Dreamlifter aircraft, used for the transportation of sections of the B787.
Training - A Priority
It must be just about unique that, when setting up an airline, the building of your Training Centre is made the priority. As an indicator of the importance of training it doesn’t get much better than that! That got the training element of EVA Air off to a great start - and the present training team still have that quest for excellence as the primary driver. Naturally the fleet and global network has grown way beyond those early days, and now number some 78aircraft and five types (see sidebar) operating to over 5 international cities. There are now more than 4,000 cabin crew and 1,200 flight crew, of whom 200 are instructors, so the initial and recurrent training task requires considerable resources.
Captain Gary Peng, executive chief pilot, explained that the pristine Training Centre creates the atmosphere in which the training can be carried out to the highest standards. From the start the EVA Air drive has been to carry out its own training with its own instructors - thus keeping control of the quality of the instruction and competence of the crews.
The flight deck crews are equipped with tablets which enable pre-flight study and planning from home or hotel, and new technology is also placed in front and centre of the training. It is evident that all the training tools are maintained to the highest level. The constant upgrading of training tools includes preparation for the March 2018 introduction of the first Boeing 787-900 aircraft; the L3 FFS will be certified to EASA regulation.
Given that the core of the training system is the instructor cadre, it is critical that these are selected and trained carefully. Operating crew who show talent and enthusiasm are picked out early on as potential stars, and with a closely-followed one-on-one mentoring system, are guided towards training responsibility in a Management Pilot Apprentice Programme, which includes not just Captains but also suitable First Officers. At the start of this package they will be given a four month long practical project to work on - for instance a study on an overhaul of the ab initio pilot training system. The application that they then bring to this - in terms of effort and expertise - will help to assess them for further progress.
The decision was taken to prepare an entire career-long training profile, starting with ab initio training. To this end, a training base has been set up near Sacramento, California, at the former Mather USAF base, where the full range of new purpose-built campus facilities will shortly come online.
Inevitably the Taiwan CAA requires that a PPL is needed early on, but thereafter it is the EVA Air course that is followed.
The EVA Air Flight Training Academy is equipped with modern Diamond Aircraft; the DA 20, DA 40 supported by a Level 5 Frasca FTD, and DA 42, the initial course followed a CPL/IR progression, but now has moved entirely to a MPL syllabus. A key feature here is that from the end of the Core Flying Skills Phase the students are streamed for one of the ATR/A321/A330 types currently in the EVA Air fleet, and from then on the training is carried out in that type’s FFS and, eventually, the aircraft itself. An additional attribute is that there are more hours of training than the regulatory minimum.
The first graduates of this 23 month MPL course have already completed their training, and as a measure of the success of this new syllabus, there is the fact that, based on their performance, the number of sectors of Line Operating Experience (LOE) is going to be reduced from the 80 used for the conventional training to just 60 for the MPL graduates (boosted by 8-10 flights as observers, principally for exposure to R/T). That change is also coupled to the observation that, right from licence issue, these MPL graduates are much better prepared for airline operation.
Captain Tom Swaby, senior training supervisor B777, enthuses about the adoption of EBT as an overreaching trigger for initial and recurrent training. Fundamental to EBT is, of course, the role of the instructors, and the major task of encouraging those who were formerly instructors to become facilitators has meant some major shifts in the Train the Trainer programme.
This starts with a video of a practice captain incapacitation in the FFS, which serves as the basis for a discussion on how to grade the observed behaviours. Initially there is usually a broad range of grades, but, with further exercises and discussion, together with using facilitation as a tool, the grades become much more uniform and standardised. That facilitation runs through the stages of Replay (a verbal self-debrief and assessment), followed by Reconstruct to think more deeply about what had just happened, Reflect to consider how to improve it, and Redirect to run through the scenario again with an improved approach.
This EBT approach is used during normal crew training sessions, in which there is comprehensive video and audio recording. This is most definitely in a non-jeopardy formula, and once the debriefing is complete the recordings are deleted. One of the main focal points is to present difficult or dangerous scenarios in which SOPs and routine actions may not produce the desired result. This is a training exercise, not a test, but it is important to encourage thinking around a problem to develop the skills to be able to cope with the unexpected. Most of these competencies are non-technical - teamwork and leadership featuring strongly.
A lot of attention is paid to acquiring and maintaining manual flying skills, largely using the terms of the FAA SAFO 17007, which emphasises the importance of these skills. During the recurrent training the first officers can be expected to fly one of the more complicated approaches which, in routine operations, are only cleared to be flown by the captain. This exposes future command pilots to the extra tasks of that later role, but in a gradual and controlled environment.
Angel Ku, cabin crew instructor, is proud of the fact that the training tools available for the Cabin Crew trainers are also state of the art. In particular, the B777 Cabin Emergency Evacuation Trainer (CEET), manufactured by TFC, has an extended range of capabilities. With 16 different HD cameras, individual seat-back iPad pro for instruction and student log-in, the performance and progress of individuals can be tracked and tailored instruction delivered to help them. Once again the drive is for facilitation to enable the interactive self-taught mode which is proven to yield greater learning retention.
The CEET is mounted on a motion platform, which has a roll capability of 30 degrees, pitch of 20 degrees and a vertical heave of four metres, all of which is more than enough to represent most emergency scenarios. It also has slides on both sides, one of which goes to a pool for ditching training, and the other for practice deployment and use of a conventional slide. The full range of cabin fires, depressurisation, and smoke generation is also available. Door trainers for all types are on site, all with virtual slides.
A primary function of the CEET is for CRM training, not just for cabin crew, but also in recurrent training with a flight deck crew and, from time to time, dispatchers. The belief is that it is important for the entire team to better understand each other’s role. The CRM instructors, drawn from all disciplines, themselves complete the entire two day introductory course before embarking on the CRM instructor course, which is made up of five different stages. There are also external courses where necessary.
In the classroom safety training there are the usual aids, but an additional facility is the availability of those classrooms until midnight each day for trainees to refresh, update, and reinforce any of the exercises. They simply log in and out, and, of course, the training itself is logged. A novelty is that the majority of the classrooms are fitted to represent aircraft interiors, so that the drills are carried out, even at the theoretical level, in a representative atmosphere. First aid training is delivered by the medical team from the in-house Medical Centre which caters for the health needs and medical examinations of the crews, and there is a “real” fire training facility in the fire fighting training.
Staying with the principle of self-sufficiency, the Training Centre has its own maintenance team, who themselves need specialist training for the work on the FFSs. The initial training is with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and then with the EVA Air instructors, and is completed with six months of On the Job Training.
The overall training principle is one of Competency Based Training (CBT), encouraged by a style of facilitation which encourages individual responsibility and engagement in the broader company culture. The aim is to propose a full, long term career in whatever discipline is chosen, but also with the opportunity to progress within the company training and management structure.
The search for new entrants is directly promoted through easily-accessible internet connections, but recruiters are present at college campuses just before graduation. The aim is to have them join as young as possible - for the men it is about 23-24 years of age after the compulsory national military service. That is likely to have instilled the discipline which seamlessly leads to the self-discipline which is so fundamental within the industry.
Taiwan has a population of just under 23 million; within that EVA Air has established itself as a high-profile brand and, as the national airline, it has a prime and important position in its home country. With its widespread route structure it carries that brand worldwide, now reinforced by its partnership within the Star Alliance. This is an airline with a bright (green) future.
Published in CAT issue 1/2018