To the conference theme of Reset, Restart and Rebuild, add words such as Responsive, Resilient and Resolute when discussing the civil aviation training community.

This is a group of people around the world who believe in the value of what they do, and while the pandemic may have taken them by surprise, as everyone else, they are not going to be deterred. As CAE civil leader Nick Leontidis stated, “Disruptive events are opportunities to innovate.”

The first of three days of the Global Airline Training & Simulation virtual conference (GATS-V), hosted by Halldale Group and CAT magazine, featured keynotes by Leontidis and Airbus SVP Valerie Manning, regulatory updates from both EASA and the FAA, and an array of speakers from Europe and North America on subjects as diverse as disabilities and data, trafficking and training devices, and maintenance and machine learning.

There are already more than 850 registered participants, including from aircraft OEMs, air carriers, industry associations, training companies, researchers, academics and students. In addition to the nine sessions (27 presenters plus several moderators), the conference access pass enables delegates to engage with industry sponsors in a virtual exhibit hall, exchange messages with other participants, and tap into links for further resources.

In the opening keynote, Manning, who is Senior Vice-President of Customer Support, acknowledged the severe airline industry downturn, which is off by about 60% from 2019 levels and has reduced Airbus’ production levels by 40%, but she quickly noted “some bright spots,” including “low-cost airlines really benefitting from that fixed cost” and “some airlines now trying to start up.”Manning described how Airbus “focused first on securing the business continuity for our customers” and on the aircraft flying fleet “to make sure we have that continued airworthiness and safety as well.”

They implemented a multifunctional team with links to engineering, digital and regional offices to manage the anticipated high number of urgent requests from airline customers. Part of that was managing scheduled maintenance stoppages, aircraft parking and storage, and returning the fleet to operational service. They used their Skyways digital platform to develop a geospatial app to identify aircraft locations and all the relevant contextual data about each bird.

As important, the OEM addressed the needs of non-hardware resources: people. Cooperating “with other OEMs, with authorities, with customers, with suppliers, and of course with medical health agencies and with universities to say what can we do.” Manning explained, “It’s looking at overall society. How do people feel? What’s the perception? What are the behaviours? We’re really trying to look at a collective industry response … it’s really great that we’re all coming together.”

CAE had the audacity to use the GATS-V event to release an update to its Pilot Demand Outlook, spanning 2020-2029. Leontidis estimated that, “despite the short-term decline in the number of active pilots,” the industry will need 260,000 new pilots over the next decade, driven by growth (once air travel picks up again), attrition rates, and mandatory retirements.

By the end of 2021 alone, CAE expects a demand for 27,000 new pilots.

Across the next decade, the Montréal-based training company envisions 167,000 new “replacement” pilots (126K airline, 41K business aircraft) and 97,000 new “growth” pilots (93K airlines, 4K bizjet).

“As an industry, we have weathered global storms before and have learned from these setbacks,” said Leontidis. “Together, we can collaborate to develop the future of aviation training and emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”

In the EASA regulator update, Capt. Giancarlo Buono, Director Safety and Flight Operations, Europe, IATA, said, “One of the main issues has been and still is harmonisation. Our transport is global by nature. We cannot work in an environment where one state is asking different things from another. He noted, “The major challenge is to keep a large population of newly unemployed crews competent to allow for the return into service once the market will recover.” He also urged, “Electronic licences need to be implemented everywhere in the world.”

“The future looks a little bleak now,” Buono concluded, “But let me remind all of you that after every storm comes a rainbow.”

Jani Hottola, Special Advisor, Traficom, and a member of the EASA General Aviation Task Force, described the rapid response of Finnish operators when the lockdown limited access to simulators. An exemption template was quickly developed and granted. In the “very hectic environment with queries from all around the world, as a lot of information was flowing through us, we were able to connect outside parties who could help each other.”

Rob Burke, manager of the US Federal Aviation Administration Training and Simulation Group (AFS-280), walked the audience through the extensive list of topics the TSG is focused on, made the more challenging by Covid-related travel restrictions (“more ‘Zooms’ than ever before”) and drafting training guidelines for the proposed Boeing MAX return to service.

Many of the initiatives flow through the Air Carrier Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee, the ACT ARC for short. Now in its eighth year, the ARC comprises manufacturers, labour representation for pilots, dispatchers and flight attendants, large carrier and regional airline associations, business aviation, and training centres CAE and FlightSafety. “It’s a very broad group, well represented,” said Burke. “Inputs can come from any direction, whether industry proposed, FAA proposed, CAS safety enhancements, NTSB regs, or even previous ARC regs that never made it into rulemaking.”

Currently, the foci of the ACT ARC include flight path management, effectiveness of knowledge training (distributed learning), the Flight Standardization Board process, and de-escalation training (ie, calming down unruly passengers).

In the coming years, the ACT ARC … expected to be renewed for a third four-year tranche in 2021 … could address training of pilots for drones and eVTOL (urban taxi-type aircraft) and VR/AR/MR/XR training tools.

Andy Smith, President of the Halldale Group and Publisher, CAT Magazine, remarked that, “We're in the midst of the worst crisis to hit the airline industry, but we're also in the midst of a period of the most rapid and broad technology change and improvement that we have ever seen. These two phenomena have aligned and have forced radical changes in the way we train, the way we deliver training, and perhaps even more critical, the way that we can analyse training effectiveness. We can then transfer that effectiveness to operations, measure the outcome and tweak the training to continually improve operations, safety and training effectiveness.”


Catch up on the reports from Days 2 and 3:

Drilling into the Details

Aligning the Acronyms


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