At a recent conference in London, the Royal Aeronautical Society addressed the issue of new pilot training and assessment during a two day event. Chris Long reports.

At the core of this new era is the increasingly widespread adoption of Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBTA). This is a significant change in the way that training is conducted - both for the trainee and the instructor.

Gone are the days of the student being the passive recipient of the words of wisdom from the instructor merely reading from a script. Now the degree of engagement has considerably stepped up - it has been recognised that one training regime does not fit all. The trainee is expected to actively seek and apply the knowledge, and the instructor’s role has morphed into that of a facilitator, assessor and at times, coach. There is collaboration between the two parties, such that the learning process is much better adapted to the individual’s needs in terms of both preferred learning platforms and pace of delivery.

Keynote Speakers

The theme and tone of the event were set by the keynote speakers. Torbjorn Wischer of CAE led off by providing a guide to the proposed ICAO PANS Training Amendment and IATAs perspective on that. Representing the view of the regulators, Georges Rebender, Head of Aircrew and Medical Department at EASA, explained the regulatory process for introducing this new approach, which is working its way through the EASA and European Commission legal process. In a supplementary presentation during one of the panel session, Rebender commented on a recent ICAO letter to the National Aviation Authorities which proposes the expansion of the CBTA philosophy to the selection and training of instructors. As a major influence in the training world, Airbus’s perspective was represented by Jacqui Suren, who explained the endorsement and adoption of that CBTA process, which stresses the importance of applying that in all aspects of training - both theoretical and practical.

Challenges

Other themes evoked were the relationship of the individual and automation. Do we adapt the human to the new technology, or do we make automation more reflective of human strengths/ characteristics? Is there a risk of de-humanising the individual in this process, and if so, do we risk losing those attributes of creativity/adaptability which so far have proven to be a step too far for artificial intelligence? Should there be more precise identification of circumstances where the strengths of automation can support the crews, and then concentrate of reinforcing the unique skill sets of competent pilots?

Whilst it is easy to be dazzled by the hype surrounding these new initiatives, what do the teams on the front line really need in order to employ them in daily training/operations? In a world where there is so much pressure on the day job - how do we actually integrate the new methods into practical applications?

Having excellent training platforms and methodology is certainly essential, but as ever, a major topic was the encouragement of the next generation, by whatever label, into the industry, and then how do we best select them? Successful selection leads to a win-win. The individuals are reassured that they have the potential to succeed, and the training systems can be fine-tuned to deliver competent actors in a process which requires minimal rescheduling/recoursing. No longer are recruits seeking a unique job-for-life. The industry must make itself more attractive by offering a whole lifetime career, with the potential for variety built into it.

The shortage of the critical resource of instructors must be addressed - and again, for this role there must be careful selection and training of those who exhibit the distinct characteristics which all good instructors should possess. Those should be fostered and supported with appropriate training and career paths

Food for Thought

Whilst the speakers highlighted the challenges, there were also good solutions proposed. The event engaged with a well-informed and passionate audience, and consequently moved the training debate forward.

Published in CAT issue 6/2018