Late spring in London usually means attending the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Flight Simulation Group’s spring conference, to take the temperature of where we are headed as an industry in terms of innovation in technology, training practices and the impact of regulatory change in flight simulation and training. Mark Dransfield reports.

The conference did not disappoint and delivered some excellent presentations to the 100 plus delegates in attendance from across the industry with several key themes emerging during the two days related to regulatory change and the increasing roles of virtual reality and big data in training.

On the regulatory front Andy Gillbard from Boeing got the ball rolling by reporting that EASA has recently released issue 2 of EASA CS-FSTD A (effective 4th May) in support of the forthcoming EASA FCL updates for UPRT and stall training. While the update aligns EASA CS-FSTD A Level D FFS requirements closely to those in the FAA equivalent CFR Part 60 Change 2 in this regard, there is also the notable addition in EASA part ARA of a competency based framework for NAA FSTD inspectors, the aim of which is to improve interpretation of the applicable FSTD regulations regarding simulator evaluation and qualification, and to further standardisation between the EASA member states.

However, perhaps the biggest surprise came in the keynote speech from Georges Rebender, Head of the EASA Aircrew and Medical Department, who surmised that the training industry is at a crossroads and should be fully preparing for utilising the latest technologies in training. Individual tailored training using new tools such as virtual and augmented reality is seen positively, as are autonomous or artificial intelligence applications in the training domain where “big data” is being used more and more to analyse trends and factors from incidents and accidents.

Rebender postulated that if operators consider training as a part of their Safety Management System that is obliged to deliver the required proficiency commensurate to the activity they are training for, then he suggested that EASA might adapt the flexibility of the regulations to empower the training providers to decide what training device features, types or even qualification levels suit their training programs best to ensure that the course outcomes are achieved.

Task Force

Evidently a small focussed EASA task force started in March 2018 to develop guidance material on optimised use of training devices or tools in regard of the training objectives for both Aircrew and Air Operation flight crew training. This EASA task force focus will be on type ratings first, including instructors and examiners, with recurrent training later on.

Jeff Schroeder, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor, Federation Aviation Administration also confirmed that the FAA is in parallel revisiting what tasks can be done in what devices.

Dave Head, Head of Customer Marketing, Thales, presented the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) development as a potential methodology where gamification in training could find its route into military and commercial aviation training markets.

Capt. Andy Mitchell, CEO, Use Before Flight, discussed how aviation blended learning environments (ABLE), that combine online digital media with traditional classroom methods, might benefit the industry including the use of virtual additional crew members to get familiar with the required competencies and behaviours rather than always having to use the FFS for some individual based training.

Simon Evers, Training and Standards Manager from Shell Aviation, outlined the varied operational and aircraft complexity environment in corporate jet operations and the significant training burden and potential issues for the operator’s Safety Management System that it implies. Evers concluded that the need for Evidence Based Training and corporate flight departments often need to team up with several different training providers to cover all the eventualities in their SMS.

Even training and simulation for potential pilotless operations was touched upon with an extremely revealing insight into recent open research for developing and testing autonomous vehicle artificial intelligence operations by Ashish Kapoor, Principal Researcher and Research Manager, Microsoft Research.

Other subjects aired ranged from discussing the need to have training for cyber-attacks on aircraft systems to understanding the physiological difference between Startle and Surprise that we hear so much about in training these days. The use of multiple malfunctions or threats and errors in scenarios to continually vary the pilots frame of reference was discussed as a means to effectively introduce startle and surprise.

Twelve months is a short time in the world of aviation regulatory change and next year’s conference will measure progress made but it appears at last that the long awaited for dialogue to review the real training capabilities of today’s training systems and technologies with respect to bringing the regulatory guidance up to date, and even future proofing it, has started in earnest.

Published in CAT issue 4/2018