Editorial Comment

This edition of CAT Magazine is the EATS Show Issue, with editorial content designed to support the topical training narratives of this premier event, as well as serve the large international S&T community in attendance. Further, having very recently delivered the APATS event in Singapore, we’re still digesting the enormous volume of training data and perspectives from that forum. And it goes without saying that planning for CAT’s flagship WATS event in the spring in Orlando has already begun.

Over the past few years, the issue of global pilot supply and demand, and the sub-themes of securing the personnel pipeline and maintaining candidate quality has been central to both the magazine and the CAT events. This issue is no exception with feature articles on Competency-based Training and Assessment (CBTA), as well as the continuing challenge of developing Professionalism.

We’ve watched the supply and demand pressures drive many air carriers to take control of their own personnel supply pipeline by implementing progressive recruitment and training programs, including developing relationships with collegiate and private training organisations, and even getting directly involved in primary training. This can be observed particularly with some US regional airlines, but international carriers are also increasingly following this path. As noted in this issue, Ryanair is one of the latest to make decisions in this regard, representing the first time in nearly 30 years that the airline has become involved in initial flight training. Selection, competency-based training and assessment, and mentoring are pivotal components of the Ryanair program.

The trend for air carriers to be involved in initial flight training is not just driven by concerns over numbers, it is also underscored by the apparent lack of professional competencies in some candidates. The view is that professional competencies need to be assessed in primary training, as airlines are finding that these qualities often require further development once hired. However, most would agree that appropriate professional attitudes and competencies should not need a great deal of additional development by the airline; they should be present at the time of hiring. As the article points out, capturing professional competency data can and should happen at the ATO, and there are tools and analytics available to do just that.

Identifying and developing professionalism seems to be the defining issue of our time for this industry. It continues to emerge in conversations about the importance of mentoring, and the fact that the industry cannot solely rely on subjective evaluations of a candidate’s level of professionalism and fitness for hire. The CBTA initiative is certainly laudable, and is making an important contribution, but whenever I hear about pilot selection methodologies, identifying and developing professionalism and the importance of career-long mentoring, I also think of the success of our friends in the military services. While much of the military model is not applicable to civil aviation, ex-military pilots are highly sought after, even as that pipeline continues to decline.

The military services focus on the best prospects and selects them with extraordinary care through proven tools and analytics that have been perfected over generations of aviators. Before candidates get near an aircraft they are intensively screened for medical, motivational, psycho-motor and academic skills (and an undergraduate degree is mandatory). Officer training must then be completed which screens further for professional and critical leadership acumen, as well as physical and mental resilience.

Military proficiency-based training programs mean that qualified aviators are “winged” and deemed fully operational with far fewer hours than most of their civil colleagues. And they also typically log fewer annual flight hours. However, except when on deployed operations, and unlike civil flying, each flying hour is a training hour, and the rigor of that training is intense and mission-specific, with much focus on emergency procedures, unusual situations and the development of command and leadership attributes. The latter is also enhanced through mentoring and the culture and ethos of the military services. Interestingly, in the US a great proportion of active duty fighter pilots are reservists and also fly for the airlines.

It is apparent that new civil training patterns have mimicked certain aspects of the military model with regards to selection and assessment, as well as through initiatives to identify professional attitudes and competencies early. And while the military training model cannot be readily applied to the civil world, there is more they can teach us with regard to identifying and developing leadership and command attributes. We should both look and listen.

Safe travels, Chris Lehman, CAT Editor in Chief

Published in CAT issue 5/2018