Continuing the theme of this year’s World Airline Training Summit (WATS), the Regional Airline Training (RATS) track of the show will also focus on Professionalism in the Aviation Workforce. Chuck Weirauch finds out more.

This topic is of particular interest to the regional airline pilot training conference organizer Captain Paul Preidecker, who will moderate a panel on professionalism as a part of this track. He is the Chief Flight Instructor for Air Wisconsin. The panel will be made up of two regional airline representatives and one aviation university academian, who will discuss how to teach and train professionalism in flight schools and at airlines, and what tools can be given to students to manage it on every flight.

“We have focused on what are the attributes of a professional in earlier presentations,” Preidecker said, “but over the years what I have decided is that what we really need to talk about is how do we manage professionalism, based on threat and error management concepts for flight crews.”

Preidecker has a number of areas that he considers to be threats to professionalism that flight crews should be aware of. They include:

  • Automation-induced complacency - where crews become a bit too used to automation.
  • Repetition-induced complacency - can be caused by repeatedly flying the same routes flying the same approaches during the same conditions.
  • Schedules - as that four-day schedule unfolds, it becomes more tiring and crews have to recognize that.
  • Procedures - over time, a company’s procedures can get bloated because airlines are trying to respond to all the digital data they get.
  • Never, ever waste a mistake - learn the lessons from them.
  • Failure in dynamic mitigating risk - in the process of mitigating rick, we might make the wrong decision.

New Pilot Background Study

The need for more pilots has led to a wider diversity of backgrounds of those who have recently been hired by regional airlines. Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) president Guy Smith and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) professor Michelle Hight will highlight the results of the most recent Pilot Source Study 2018 conducted by the Collaborative Research arm of AABI, based on the airline background records of 9,776 pilots hired by five regional airlines since 2015 in their presentation.

According to Smith, there were significant differences from this most recent 2018 AABI-conducted pilot background study and the Pilot Source Study 2015, where the backgrounds of more than 22,000 pilots were studied after Public Law 11-216 and its companion First Officer Qualification (FOQ) Rule were implemented. Now the 2018 study shows that the mean age of the regional pilots who are currently flying is 33 years of age, while in the earlier 2015 study it was between 21 and 22 years of age.

It was also found that there were fewer pilots who had graduated from an AABI-accredited flight program - 22 percent in the 2018 study - as opposed to 33 percent in the 2015 study. Other differences between the two studies will also be discussed, such as a significant increase in the percentage of current regional pilots in the 2018 study with a military background - 20 percent - with eight percent coming from a rotor community, while before the law it was only three percent of the regional pilots with a military background in the 2015 study. Both complete studies can be found at

New Training Approach

Also at RATS, Aviation Psychologist Paul Harris and Captain Shem Malmquist will be proposing a new approach to training that can enable pilots to improve their performance through gaining a better understanding of their personality. By using such an approach, pilots can optimally manage their behavior, interactions, and responses during training and line operations, according to Harris.

“We are looking at how pilots can learn to manage their performance more effectively, and so increase their propensity for excellent decision-making across their careers,” Harris pointed out. “Snapshot/one-time personality assessments of pilots can be poor and inaccurate predictors of behavior. I think that understanding, as opposed to prediction, is a more useful objective. We want to look at ways to empower pilots directly with the tools and means to better understand themselves in relevant and practical ways, so they can optimize their professional performance while a given scenario is in play.”

Harris and Malmquist are in the process of engaging with a number of airlines to conduct a test study of how well their approach might work. Harris also points to the utility of this method in designing more effective training scenarios that can maximize learning outcomes for the individual student.

“The aim is to help pilots gain increased agency, mastery and professional engagement with their work, so they can maintain desirable outcomes and optimum mental health across their career,” Harris summed up.

Pilot Recruitment

Since GoJet Airlines has plans to hire about 500 new pilots this year and expand its fleet by 32 percent, the regional’s recruitment personnel feel that they must employ a less traditional approach to attracting new hires to their company. Captain Jason DuVernay, the airline’s Executive Pilot Recruiter and Assistant Chief Pilot, will tell RATS attendees just how a more personal approach to recruiting has proven to be successful for GoJet.

“What I think that is different about our airline is we handle the candidates from start to finish,” DuVernay said. “We initially screen the candidate with a phone call, fully devoting time to answer all of their questions until we feel really comfortable with them. We will then go to the candidate in person for the interview in a quiet and familiar place, rather than having them feeling that they are being grilled in our offices. This approach disarms them and allow us to see who they really are. So, this is a completely different recruitment idea from what I have seen before. This is more of a corporate pilot angle, since there is a lack of effectiveness in just calling a candidate.”

GoJet will also be talking about its rotor transition program at the show, with mainly candidates from the US military, which DuVernay said has had great success.

 Captain Paul Preidecker, Chief Flight Instructor for Air Wisconsin and moderator of the Regional Airline Training track at WATS. Image credit: David Malley/Halldale Group.
Captain Paul Preidecker, Chief Flight Instructor for Air Wisconsin and moderator of the Regional Airline Training track at WATS. Image credit: David Malley/Halldale Group.

Day Two Morning Sessions

Once again, the Regional Airline Pilot Training track of WATS will feature the most relevant issues pertaining to this segment of the US airline industry. Headlining these sessions will be A Washington Review of the Regional Airline Industry. Opening the morning on Day 2 will be Rob Burke, Manager of the FAA Air Carrier Systems and Voluntary Safety Programs Branch, (AFS-280). Burke will offer his comments and perspectives on key rule-making affecting the industry. A report on the various programs of the Voluntary Safety Programs Branch will be made as well.

The morning sessions will also include Barbara Adams, an FAA Management and Program Analyst who will provide an update on the agency’s ATP Airman Certification Standards. She will also review the status of the upcoming release of the Airman Certification Standards for the ATP certificate. This information will be of use to training providers who are developing curriculum for future airline pilots. From the industry side, a representative of the Regional Airline Association (RAA) will discuss the State of the Industry, as well as the activities and initiatives that are being addressed by the organization.

Exclusive RAA Interview

Since it was not known whom would represent the RAA at press time to cover the state of the regionals at RATS, following this feature CAT is providing an exclusive interview with RAA president and CEO Faye Malarkey Black on this topic and others.

Other RATS Topics

  • Re-Imagined CRM and Professionalism in AQP - Vin Parker, AQP Manager & Bill Whyte, General Manager, Flight Operations Training, Compass Airlines,
  • Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) - Randall Brooks, VP Training and Business Development, Aviation Performance Solutions
  • A Local-Global Problem: Making Skies Safer by Teaching Aviation English – Jennifer Roberts, Aviation English Specialist, Embry-Riddle Language Institute

RAA President Provides Regionals Industry Overview

CAT recently interviewed Regional Airline Association (RAA) president and CEO Faye Malarkey Black to help gain a state-of-the-industry viewpoint for this segment of the aviation industry.

CAT: The February 2019 RAA Pilot Workforce and Training Update Report indicates a continuing contraction in regional airline services by the reduction of passengers enplaned, with fewer departures and a decreasing number of airports served, with all of these trends based on the causal factor of the pilot shortage. Do you foresee the continuation of these trends, and what do they mean for the regional airline industry as a whole?

Black: Over the past few decades, new pilot certificates have shrunk by nearly one-third amidst pilot attrition and industry growth. This shortfall has damaged small community air service, and unless we reverse the trend, impacts will worsen as pilot attrition has not yet peaked. 50,000 pilots (about half of today’s workforce) face mandatory retirement within 15 years and 14,000 must retire within five years. The sheer volume of pilots entering - and upgrading - through the system at an extremely rapid pace should turn the discussion from simply supplying the future workforce to the appropriate focus of shoring up the US training infrastructure - both collegiate and non-collegiate structured pathways - so future pilots can access the best foundational training and experience.

Data shows the most successful pilots come from structured training pathways but in 2018, the FAA issued 4,026 ATP certificates and only 1,762 restricted ATP certificates from structured training pathways. As an industry - airlines, policymakers, and regulators - we must pay close attention to the data and act on it. Today’s structured training pathways are working well, but do not scratch the surface of demand. We need more of them to ensure a safe and sustainable workforce.

CAT: What are some of the other factors that may be leading to this contraction of services, and what might be done to help alleviate their effect?

Black: Air service to smaller communities has declined in recent years alongside regional airline industry contraction. These losses defied economic trends by taking place during an economic expansion. Even where other contributing factors are present, the pilot shortage can’t be dismissed. For example, an airline might upgauge due to customer preference or demand, or might upgauge to parse scarce pilot resources across fewer aircraft. When a community gains seats while losing destinations or frequency, the pilot shortage is likely playing a role. Even under-utilization can stem from the shortage.

It’s a pain cycle: if an airline no longer has pilots needed to cover sick calls or spare aircraft, service and reliability suffers, and passengers seek alternatives. This has been particularly challenging in the Essential Air Service (EAS) markets, where service disruptions have caused enplanements to drop dramatically even though the air service remains vital. The most important step we can take to protect healthy air service levels in smaller communities is to present pilots with more opportunities to access high-quality training and enter an airline pilot career.

CAT: Within the last year, has there been a considerable reduction in services provided by regional airlines due to pilot shortages, or are you beginning to see some reversal of that trend due to new pilot-hire incentives being provided by regional airlines?

Black: From compensation to cadet and transition programs to academy-style foundational training, regionals are investing in pilots. Carriers have also instituted mentorship and leadership development programs for women and people of color, putting real elbow grease behind the old adage “you have to see it to be it”. Of course, it does not matter how rewarding the career is if pilots can’t access it. The price of foundational training can exceed $200,000. Carriers are trying to address this through tuition and other financial assistance, but policymakers have not kept up.

Federal student loans are capped below the cost of training. Pilots training outside the collegiate pathway have no access to financial aid or student loans, even though vocational training is covered for other fields. If we want to see market-based solutions work, young people must be able to access and afford the right training. Simply bringing more pilots to the starting line doesn’t mean all those pilots will cross the finish line. If pilots don’t have the right foundational training, they can and do wash out of commercial airline initial training.

CAT: Since the ongoing pilot shortage continues to affect regionals air service, what recent steps has the RAA taken to encourage Congress to support measures that would help improve pathways for prospective and student pilots to become career airline professionals?

Black: Congress has a Higher Ed bill due for reauthorization and is also eyeing infrastructure investment. These provide prime vehicles to help fund pilot education and training. Industry has increased its diligence in bringing qualified pilots, not just FAR qualified, to the profession. Similarly, policymakers must pay attention to the data supporting structured training and should not dismiss it because it’s a tough issue to promote. We have strong data and more data is coming. It is everyone’s responsibility to act on it. 

Published in CAT issue 2/2019