The annual EATS gathering could easily be renamed the European Airline Training Action Symposium. Rick Adams reports on what the industry’s thought leaders focused on in Madrid.

Every industry conference includes a standard mix of elements: speakers representing organisations and companies, exhibitors demonstrating their latest gizmos and services, networking events to reacquaint with longtime friends and engage with a few new ones.

The true value in a conference comes from the caliber of the presenters and the effort they put into their presentations. And especially the interaction among the delegates who have gathered for common purposes.

The annual European Airline Training Symposium (EATS) 2018 in Madrid, Spain, the 17th edition of this event, brought together many of the best and brightest in the global training scene: familiar names in the training community such as Adrian, Advani, Dousi, Drappier, O’Shea, Ranganathan, Rebender, Renier, Schroeder, Varney, Wischer; newer voices such as Marcus Oswaldson, Dr. Rod Wren, and human capital specialist Dr. William Cox; a large contingent from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); heads of training from trend-driving airlines; and a record-shattering 867 attendees, a 35% increase on the previous record of last year, from 92 airlines and more than 50 countries.

This is not a passive group. They were in Madrid to listen, to understand … and to act.

It was at EATS five years ago in Berlin, for example, that the Aviation Training Policy Group (ATPG) was formed, an initiative from EASA to encourage industry support for a vision to implement the rolling revolution in pilot training which has been talked about for more than a decade.

“We are moving rapidly into a period of intense change,” Capt. Andy O’Shea told the EATS audience. O’Shea is Head of Training for Ryanair and Chairman of the ATPG. Citing the ongoing pilot shortage worldwide and the 50% wash-out rate of young people who enter pilot training programmes, O’Shea advocated for “scientifically based assessment to make sure we’re getting the right people into the industry in the beginning. Let’s not waste their money and industry resources training somebody who will never get to be a pilot.” He suggested that “mid- to high-90s percentile passing an assessment should be the norm.”

O’Shea also urged the industry to “find a solution to the risk/funding” dilemma that saddles cadets with €100-150,000 in debt for their training.

Noting that the education of doctors and nurses is funded with state support in Ireland, he asked, “Why is professional pilot education treated so differently?” Another speaker, Andy Taylor of the University of Bedfordshire, said the UK’s air traffic control service, NATS, not only pays for controller training, it also provides a trainee salary.


EASA Aircrew and Medical department leader Georges Rebender, in his keynote address, outlined “a training paradigm shift” which the agency initiated at its safety conference in Luxembourg in 2015. “The first results are visible,” he said. The forward approach includes bridging theoretical learning and practice through competency-based training and assessment (CBTA), evidence-based training (EBT), upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT), and “enhanced ATOs” (Approved Training Organisations).

Rebender also sounded a challenge later echoed by other speakers: “Moving toward an intelligent learning system would need to better consider the progress of neuro-cognitive sciences. We do it by research programmes to better understand resilience, but this is only one element in a much broader picture of understanding the human brain processes.”

Rebender also announced that “EASA has just launched an external evaluation of the training rules … to provide an independent, transparent, evidence-based evaluation of the performance of the rules regulating the whole pilot training spectrum.” Conclusions and recommendations for regulatory and non-regulatory improvements – and proposals on how a “performance-based regulation” could be applied – will be sent to the EU National Aviation Authorities Technical Body (TeB) and industry flight standards FS.TEC group, leading to a joint workshop to agree on a course of action.

Capt. Phillip Adrian, former training regulatory leader for Boeing, now CEO for Dutch simulation device manufacturer MPS, commended EASA “for being willing to work with industry, and Halldale and CAT magazine for making this possible.”

“We need regulatory changes to allow innovation,” Adrian said. “We have brilliant airplanes, but we are still training like they are DC4s. We have to stop basing training on past statistics. The demographics have changed.” He said technology is a contributor to training efficiency, “but it’s not a solution by itself. We can’t always be waiting for the next shiny mirror.”

Adrian said the underlying philosophy needs to change “from training to learning” in a blended learning environment. “Task to tool identification rather than tool to task.” However, he cautioned, “we can in no way compromise on the level to be reached. The regulatory agencies will not (and should not) relent to commercial pressures and allow a degradation of safety. If anything, the level has to go up.”

Chris Ranganathan, vice president Operations Training for Etihad Airways, offered some experienced insight on CBTA/EBT, which Etihad has been conducting since 2015. “Scoring of competencies was a major change for instructors, and over 18 months the increase in ‘bad scores’ was primarily due to the learning curve of instructors. But once instructors were calibrated and gained confidence in the process, the measures became more reliable.” He advised training organisations to “use data to identify flight regimes of greatest risk, and therefore to change behaviour to address that.”


Gerda Pardatscher, EASA senior flight crew licencing (FCL) expert, said, “The choice of training device has to be objective, transparent and reproducible. It is not necessarily the case today.” She described forthcoming changes to the flight simulation training device qualification method – the “FSTD DNA concept” – addressing a dozen flight simulation features and four fidelity levels. “The DNA of a device defines what the machine is capable of doing against minimum qualification levels.”

“We’re starting a revolution, and we will face some challenges,” Pardatscher said. “It will require proper change management and an implementation agenda. But this will establish a level playing field for industry.” Proposed amendments are expected by the summer of 2019 and published in January 2020.

EASA wants CBTA methods for all aviation licences and ratings. Oswaldson, Swedish Transport Agency, said in the transition to CBTA, “we don’t want to get rid of what’s functioning well. We want to improve training.” He believes the examination “should reflect the concept – clear behavior markers of a common minimum level of competency.” He added, “This is not necessarily the case with MPL (Multi-crew Pilot Licence) training today. We need to avoid a race to the bottom mentality in which the minimum hours become the maximum hours.”

Dr. Jefferey Schroeder, Chief Scientist for Flight Simulation, US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), addressed upset situations, noting that stall warnings occur once in every 100,000 flight hours, or about every two days. He reminded delegates that an aircraft’s behaviour is very different at and after a stall. “If there is no training, it’s very difficult to recover.” He advised, “In training, don’t do too much too quickly. Encourage learning – not how to be frightened.”

One theme mentioned by EASA’s Rebender – “we need to attract … girls, which represent only 5% of the aviation population” – was also picked up by other speakers. CAE’s Torbjorn Wischer, Global Leader, Training Strategy, referenced the company’s new Women in Flight programme to sponsor female pilots through host airlines “and make them ambassadors for other females.” The Wings Alliance’s Wren cited a commitment by Qantas to intake 20% women in its pilot new hires this year and 40% within 10 years.

Several dominant themes emerged in feedback from the EATS attendees: “shortage of qualified instructors” was the most frequently mentioned. Other responses to the question, “What is the single major challenge to your business at this time? Included “high failure rate in cadet pilot training,” “lack of ab-initio motivation to become a pilot,” “new trainee generation,” “pilot recruitment and retention / pilot shortage,” “safety,” and “Brexit.”

“We left with two main takeaways,” commented the Association of Flight Simulator Builders and Instructors (AFSBI). “We learned a lot about the industry and we saw a number of interesting products applicable to our audience (small- and medium-size flight schools around the world). We also confirmed there is a marked cross-flow of solutions across the high-end ‘prosumer’ market and the professional simulator-based training market.”

“Overall,” AFSBI concluded, “EATS offered quite a comprehensive view of the aviation training ecosystem. From ATOs to service providers to large and small simulator manufacturers, including giants like CAE, L3 … Boeing, Airbus … For those involved in this sector and those who are working toward getting noticed in it, this series of summits [including WATS in the US and APATS in the Asia Pacific] are the place to be.”

Cabin Crew – New Attendees, New Techniques

The EATS cabin crew conference was the busiest ever, and more than half of the delegates attended for the first time. They were treated to a variety of interesting and thought-provoking presentations, again moderated by Anna MellbergKarlsson, Chief Cabin Safety Instructor at Novair.

In the first session three EASA speakers – Daan Dousi, Aircrew and Medical Standards and Implementation Section Manager (acting) at EASA Flight Standards Directorate; Gerda Pardatscher, Senior Expert Flight Crew Licensing; and Angela Gallorini, Cabin Crew Expert – provided an overview of what EASA is doing regarding cabin crew regulations, and future developments that will be of interest.

A lively panel discussion regarding cabin crew attestations (CCA) and related training was led by the EASA representatives plus Noel Houlihan, Safety Training Officer at Aer Lingus, and Nataša Bešter, Compliance and Safety Manager for Slovenia’s civil aviation authority. There were many questions from the floor, obviously a subject that piqued the interest of the audience.

A session focused on virtual reality training can be effectively used for cabin crew training featured presentations from Thomas Cook Airlines, KLM and the University of Udine.

In a session focusing on crew resource management (CRM), threat and error management (TEM) and human factors (HF), Capt. Collette Evans and Patrick Friel from Aer Lingus discussed the benefits of a fully integrated CRM programme, where CRM sits within the airline’s training and all CRM classes are delivered in an integrated way. Gitte Furdal Damm from About Human Factors asked whether resilience is a valuable skill? Her presentation looked at what resilience is, its relationship with stress, challenges on the job, and suggestions to help enhance resilience.

Other cabin crew sessions covered dealing with passengers with disabilities, diverse workforces and the value of developing positive training cultures, using technology to track training, re-inventing annual training to keep the interest of all students, cabin crew attestation and an emotionally moving presentation on human trafficking.

Feedback from cabin crew attendees on the major challenge to their business included “high turnover in cabin crew, requiring many new recruits,” “proper screening of initial candidates,” “balancing EASA regs with business needs,” “training crew on multiple aircraft types,” “maintaining standards,” and “Brexit.”

To view presentations from EATS 2018, click here –

EBT Workshop

The EBT workshop took place in the afternoon prior to the EATS event. This was an opportunity to get an update on the principles of EBT, with the challenges and some solutions being proposed. One of the principle providers of training, the EBT Foundation, fronted the workshop.

Mike Varney led off, as he explained that there was progress in the EASA regulatory process to adopt EBT for recurrent training, slated for 2020. Historically the industry has concentrated on negative events to define what training was essential, but with the arrival of comprehensive and detailed data capture through such sources as LOSA, previous training events and Training Critical Surveys there is now data available on successful (hitherto unrecorded) events. This data also reveals situations where effective solutions have been found by crews faced with a real-time problem. Using that data EBT suggests that the use of FFS should be as a platform to create and encourage problem solving skills. The concept was non-jeopardy, or at least reduced jeopardy training, in which the crews can be presented with unusual but realistic scenarios, and learn how to think their way out of them. The Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBTA) methodology allows analysis of root cause of performance and therefore can guide crews to improve their skills. For such a system to work the instructor role becomes significantly more complex, as they have to learn to Observe/Record/Classify/Evaluate (ORCE) the performance, and then coach to improve that performance. For instructors to do that effectively they need to be given specific and thorough training - it is different from legacy forms of instruction.

Mark Dransfield picked up the discussion to run through the challenges for the simulator manufacturers. To assist the instructor in this new form of training the actual operation of the FFS during the training event has to be made simpler. Too great a workload on the actual operation of the FFS results in distracting the instructor from his primary task of ORCE, which is at the core of the session. In order to create an immersive environment, additional functionality needs to be built into the FFS, and that includes replication of realistic and evolving weather situations which must be seen both in the visual systems and on the normal flight deck displays. Alain Heddebaut revealed how one tool to help alleviate that load is a programme called ETOCloud (Electronic Training Objects Cloud), which helps the instructor to tailor a session in advance and build in selected and unexpected/surprise events sequenced automatically once the session starts, thus relieving the instructor of excessive work on the Instructor Operating Station. This is a blank canvas for specific and individual training sessions and leads seamlessly to the protocols needed for debriefing and record keeping.

A further refinement is the inclusion of realistic ATC inputs. Jeremy Goodman explained that these frequently relied on an instructor to provide that input, again distracting from his primary task. Such automated systems are now available, and incorporate appropriate calls from both ATC and other traffic. An incorrect call from the training crew automatically prompts a correction from ATC, which exclusively uses standard radio vocabulary.

In summary - EBT is becoming more widespread, with some 30 regulators, largely following the EASA example, being in the process of updating regulation to acknowledge the benefits. In fact two authorities, Taiwan and Korea, have already mandated the use of EBT. It is likely to be only a matter of time before it becomes a global standard. – Chris Long

Heads of Training Meeting

In what is now a regular part of the EATS, there was a Heads of Training Meeting the evening before the main event. This was led by the Chair of the ATPG, Andy O’Shea, who, in his day job is Head of Training for Ryanair.

This year the emphasis was on the good work done by the Aircrew Training Policy Group (APTG). This group has its origins in earlier EATS conferences, but has since gone from strength to strength, such that it is now in a position to present directly to the European Commission to give an independent view of issues in the airline industry.

Top of the APTG agenda is the pilot shortage which, whilst long predicted, is now upon us. A prime reason for the shortfall of new pilots is that an alarming percentage of new licence holders who apply for positions with airlines do not pass the selection process.

Figures from one major European airline, which, over a period of two years, had 3,500 applicants of whom 40% did not meet the basic entry requirements, 30% needed extra training, and 30% did not successfully pass the post-licence training. That works out at an overall pass rate of 35%. At that rate in order to provide the 50,000 new European pilots by 2028 and reach the target of 146,000 pilot workforce, we will need close to a million applicants.

The challenges to the present industry start with the reality that pilot careers are generally not included in career options for STEM students, and knowledge of the pilot career path in schools is weak. Entrants must be able to pass both the medical and aptitude selection processes, and this generation frequently believes that there is both a high risk and a high dropout rate in the career.

Two other aspects where work needs to be done are in the area of the legacy instructional methods and platforms which are outdated and unattractive to a digital generation and as ever, there is the intractable problem of funding. That automatically excludes the majority, who cannot self-fund. By the same token, all the above challenges become even more evident in the very low numbers of women pilots - we need to encourage that half of the population to join the industry.

The good news is that there is a recognition of the problems. The solution is a multi-faceted approach, with positive steps being made to address them. Georges Rebender, EASA’s Head of Department Aircrew & Medical, pointed out that EASA is being pro-active in moving regulation to embrace both CBTA and EBT, together with proposals to adopt ICAO recommendations of qualifications for instructors in those disciplines. There is work in progress to standardise the quality levels within the EASA nations so that graduates of ab initio training will meet the essential operational standards. For instance, one area of particular concern is the lack of Aviation English language competency, which is hugely variable, even when individuals hold a Level 4 qualification. Another initiative to improve the skills of new pilots is for them to attend and pass an augmented MCC course - known as the APS MCC. Possession of such a certificate should make entry into an airline much more straightforward.

New platforms and adapted training technology should be introduced with relevant syllabi to match the expectations and talent of the new generation. Training can and should be made relevant and interesting which, at the same time, makes it more efficient and affordable.

So - there is recognition of the problem areas, and progress towards solving them is moving in the right direction. The whole industry - regulators, ATOs and airlines need to work together to resolve the challenge of providing enough pilots for the predicted demand. – Chris Long

Published in CAT issue 6/2018