Editorial Comment

If reality is to match the forecasts of aggressive aviation growth in the coming decades, one foundation must be training to high common worldwide standards. Without consistent standards, global aviation risks a gallimaufry of criteria at regional and national levels which may jeopardise safety, diminish public confidence, and ultimately limit growth.

Aviation training is attempting to wean itself, with sporadic success, from the post-WWII era hours-building mentality to a truly competency-based approach for assessing the airmanship skills of an aspiring pilot.

“After 20 years, we’re still talking about a competency-based framework. We need less talk and more focus on implementation. It’s time to move forward,” said Capt. Hugh Webbon, FRAeS, at the Royal Aeronautical Society International Flight Crew Training Conference last month. Webbon is Director of the LOSA Collaborative and a 39-year pilot with British Airways and Singapore Airlines.

At the IFTC, shared purpose was on display. But so was lack of consistency. There’s even disagreement on the matrix of competencies: ICAO identifies eight, Airbus nine, and the UK CAA 10. Delegates struggled with definitions of frequently used terms such as situational awareness. Views ranged from Capt. Philip Adrian, CEO of Multi Pilot Simulations and former Boeing Chief Pilot Regulatory Strategy: “baseless hour-requirements…incorrectly associated with experience” to FAA Aviation Safety Analyst Barbara Adams: “The FAA is not about to change away from prescriptive hours. Not all training providers have the ability or the means to adopt a framework that is needed to fully embrace CBTA.”

A day ahead of the conference, a symposium was held, also at 4 Hamilton Place, London, to gauge interest in forming an international association of aviation training organisations. The idea, much like competency-based training, has been around for a decade or more, first championed by Paul Lamy, Deputy Director in ICAO’s Air Navigation Bureau, now retired, with the baton picked up by Peter Barrett, FRAeS, Secretary of the RAeS Flight Crew Training Working Group (FTG).

“Such an organisation could create an environment for ATOs to work collaboratively on safety concerns, share best practice, improve international harmonisation and standardisation, and liaise with other industry stakeholders,” Barrett emphasised. “It could also help deal with the complex issues that arise when pilots, air carriers, OEMs and ATOs come from different regions and operate under different jurisdictions.”

There is now some urgency to forming a formal organisation. Chief of Operational Safety Miguel Marin said ICAO’s Competency-Based Training and Assessment Task Force expects to conclude alignment of its CBTA framework by November 2020. And in the world of ICAO, associations can have a voice whereas individual commercial entities generally do not. “Considerable benefit could result from building a good relationship between an international ATOs’ association and ICAO,” said Barrett, calling it “a first step” to “achieve ICAO ‘Observer’ status, which requires the ICAO Secretariat to recognise the potential contribution that an association could make to the ICAO work programme” – much like IATA (airlines), IFALPA (pilots), CANSO (controllers) and ACI (airports).

After some haggling over wording of an official declaration, delegates agreed, pending validation by some companies’ legal departments, to move toward creating a global association for flight training schools which are focused on developing air transport pilots. Initially, the (shall we suggest) International Consortium of Aviation Training Organisations – ICATO – might be nurtured within the RAeS FTG until it becomes an independent, self-governing entity. The implementation work will be co-chaired by Adrian and Barrett.

There are, of course, flight school groups in Europe (IAAPS), the US (IACTC) and Africa (AATO), but their numbers are limited, certainly nothing approaching the 2,500 ATOs which Barrett estimates worldwide. CAT has agreed to assist the RAeS is identifying qualified ATOs; if your school fits the profile, please send your point of contact to ICATO@halldale.com.

Commercial aviation is a global industry. Pilots flying similar modern airplanes through the same airspace to the same airports should all be trained to similar modern standards. A global organisation of air transport pilot training providers could make significant contributions toward that ideal. 

Published in CAT issue 5/2019