Editorial Comment

This is the first issue of CAT Magazine after another World Aviation Training Symposium (WATS), and as such it always poses what I call “the abundance of riches challenge.”  With the enormous volume of information and insight that is shared at WATS, it falls upon this issue of the magazine to try and capture the highlights, and where the printed page may fail due to space limitations, to direct the reader to where more event information can be gleaned. To that end, it is worth noting that all of the WATS 2018 presentation materials, across all streams, can be accessed at www.wats-event.com.

This issue includes several feature articles that perhaps encapsulate why the simulation and training industry exists – and also neatly dovetails to much of the WATS content. That is, to configure technology, technique and regulatory partnerships to obtain the human performance – and safety – needed in this industry. Sharing simulation and training Best Practise certainly occurs at WATS, and undeniably one major output of this dynamic is the constant learning and fine tuning of our training programs as a result of incidents and infrequent accidents. Indeed, this point was highlighted at WATS through a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) keynote. The NTSB mandate is to objectively find the cause and then make recommendations to stakeholders – regulator, airlines, aircraft vendors, unions, and the training industry.

Incident and accident information feedback into aircraft design, operations and training is a key reason for the remarkable safety record of the industry. The current focus on “data-driven” training and flight operations quality assurance is perhaps not as completely new as some might think. Collecting and objectively analysing industry data has always been a part of the culture and ethos of the industry, but today the concept is being taken to new heights with the enormous amounts of operational and training date being collected and the advanced data analytics being applied. The promise is that together with the latest Learning Management Systems (LMS), and new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), we’re on the cusp of a new era in training design, validation, efficiency and safety. And, as was heavily profiled at WATS, we’re seeing Artificial Reality and Mixed Reality technologies being inserted into the training continuum, offering opportunities to both further refine the curriculum and optimise the training media mix.

If the future of aviation training is non-prescriptive in implementation, where each trainee receives an individualized training curriculum from his airline employer based on collected operational and training data, I can’t help but think of the challenges posed on the other side of the coin – in airline pilot recruitment. At WATS we heard that US regional airlines are facing significant challenges in determining the actual knowledge, skills and aptitudes of potential new hires. While paper qualifications may be deemed equivalent between candidates, often there are considerable differences discovered when training commences, including the realization that some otherwise “qualified” candidates cannot pass airline new hire training.

Regional carriers are now dealing with enormous variation in the sources of new hire candidates, something not experienced in the past. Applicants include ex-military, collegiate aviation graduates, helicopter pilots, license holders from non-structured training schools, as well as older applicants who may be chasing second or even third careers. It is a challenge for regional carriers to ascertain skill levels, and some have sought to re-work their new hire training curriculums to accommodate the new demographic realities - and thus have also incurred the associated additional instructional and financial burden.

Finally, I want to comment on the extraordinary WATS presentation by Sheila Dail, a flight attendant on the US Airways “Miracle on the Hudson” incident in 2009. Her main point was that the training “worked”, but we must not forget to look after the crew in the aftermath of such dramatic accidents. Her experiences drove her to show leadership in the successful establishment of support groups for cabin crew, thus reminding the industry of the critical importance of mental well-being for all employees.

As ever, collecting data, analysing it and feeding back into operations and training is on-going – just like it has for about 100 years. 

Safe travels, Chris Lehman, CAT Editor in Chief

Published in CAT 3/2018