The opening sessions on Tuesday featured keynote presentations from Airbus and CAE, regulator updates from EASA and the FAA, overviews of developments in big data and training tools, maintenance training challenges for airlines and MROs, and the passenger focus of cabin crew training. 

Ab initio training, mental fitness, pandemic-proofing, digital twins, virtual classrooms, distance learning, diversity in the aviation workforce, and the dilemma of regional airlines in the US were just a few of the topics explored on Day Two.

Marco Van Sterkenburg, CEO of Drillster, and Air France Cabin Crew Safety Training Manager Franck Euzet discussed concerns about “the forgetting curve” – the decline in proficiency that follows the period of intense study (ie, “cramming”) prior to a recurrent exam. They advocated a “micro-learning” approach, a term we heard frequently throughout the conference: small, regular intervals of learning, in this case facilitated by resources on an iPad. They also highlighted “assessment-based learning” in which an exam requires the student to retrieve the relevant information from their memory.

Embraer Head of Training Henrique Drugowich de Felicio and Capt. Fabiano Cypel, Flight Crew Training Manager, highlighted how the Brazilian OEM weathered the pandemic thus far. Drugowich wryly referred to it as “just another day at the office for an innovative, flexible company.” He said they “regrouped … we didn’t simply rollback,” combining flight operations, flight ops engineering and training into one organisation for greater synergies between teams.Cypel showed Embraer’s new training centre, as well as several of the new virtual channels they implemented for communicating with customers. And if restrictions preclude the customer traveling to Brazil, Embraer has devised ways to facilitate acceptance and ferry the aircraft to the customer.

Deloitte Canada National Aviation Sector Leader Dejan Markovic walked the audience through the value of “digital twins,” a concept with which the simulation community has long been intimate. He cautioned, “While machine learning is a really great flavour at predicting outputs based on inputs, it’s not so great at modelling an eternal state or otherwise understanding the physical dynamics of a system, leaving questions around what information is actionable versus what’s just linear noise.”

Markovic added, “Simply having lots and lots of data doesn’t magically turn it into intelligence, automation, simulations or decisions.” He advised, “In a post-Covid world where there’s no room for error, digital twins may drive tangible value.”

Regional Airline Association Vice President, Aviation Operations & Technical Services, Bill Whyte, who came into the job just before the pandemic devastated RAA members, said they’ve lost five of their 22 member airlines. But he reinforced a theme recurring during the Global ATS-V conference: new pilots will be needed sooner than many people seem to think. Whyte cited that 51,000 airline pilots in the US are set for mandatory retirement in the next 15 years, nearly 15,000 of those in the next five years. And when the major carriers need experienced pilots, where do they look? There are only 17,000 active regional pilots, so when many of those start to transition, replacements need to be readily available.

Purdue University’s School of Aviation and Transportation Technology is part of that pilot pipeline, and Mike Suckow, Professor of Practice, shared how the school has indeed increased enrollment this year despite the pandemic. He attributes the success to their “pyramid approach” to competency-based training and investment in a range of new training aircraft, flight training devices, and a full-flight simulator, which impresses both prospective students and prospective employers.

Skyborne Airline Academy in the UK has committed to electric training aircraft, ordering 10 eFlyers from Bye Aerospace. “It’s vital for the next generation that we invest in measures to make flying more sustainable,” said Ian Cooper, Chief Operating Officer. “It’s not only good for carbon emissions, it’s also good for reducing the cost of training and reducing barriers to entry.”

A mentorship program by alumnae and a build-a-plane project are just two of the initiatives Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is using to attract more young women into aviation. Michele Summers Halleran, Professor in the Department of Aeronautical Science, described various outreach programs, and how ERAU has pivoted to virtual connections for the time being.

Standing in front of a restored “Blue Skyway” DC-3 at the Lonestar Aviation Museum in Houston, Texas, Brian Bergeron talked about CPaT Global’s new approach to distance learning courseware development. Rather than the traditional one-size-fits-all, the “Invent” platform enables airline training developers to customise lessons to their training culture and unique operating procedures. Read more about Invent here

Christian Delmas, Director of Technical Training for Airbus, related how the company “sprinted” to stay ahead of the “violent strike” of Covid-19 by adopting seven priorities, foremost of which was supporting the customers. The unprecedented lockdown was compounded by all employees working from home. Part of their solution was “synchronous distance learning,” a blend of e-learning and classroom which has become “a new training solution reference.” They taught 80 different courses to more than 800 trainees.

CAT magazine earlier featured how the flight training side of Airbus dealt with the pandemic: “The Airbus New-Normal Flight Training Approach.” 

Boeing counterpart Dr. Maggie Ma, Associate Technical Fellow, Human Factors Engineering at The Boeing Company, inserted into her presentation photos of several cities around the world such as Seattle, London, Moscow, Singapore, and Brisbane, because “most of you have missed travel for work or leisure and dream about visiting again.” She highlighted several programs, including the AOG support called “Charlie Works” in honour of Wright Brothers mechanic Charlie Taylor.

As did many conference speakers, Dr. Ma cited Boeing’s revised Pilot and Technician Outlook as expectation that the industry will not only recover in the next couple of years, it will resume the previous growth trajectory. 

Catch up on the reports from Days 1 and 3:

Aviation Trainers 'R' Optimistic About the Future 

Aligning the Acronyms

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