It was the equivalent of 27 webinars in three days. Plus an interactive virtual exhibition with nearly 20 aviation training industry vendors. And a lively networking exchange among colleagues who have been unable to meet in person for the past several months.
The Global Airline Training & Simulation - Virtual conference (Global ATS-V) was an unqualified success for the numbers alone: about 900 participants – including the world’s three major aircraft manufacturers, European and American regulators, several industry associations and foundations, multiple air carriers, a plethora of training device and service providers, specialty vendors, researchers, academics and students – featuring 68 speakers, another dozen moderators and hosts, and more than 15 hours of sponsor demos and videos. Global ATS-V was “on air” for more than 45 hours – 15 consecutive hours each day, from morning in Europe to early evening in North America.
“The numbers of pilots, maintainers and cabin crew participating are very encouraging,” commented Andy Smith, President and CEO of Halldale Group and Publisher of CAT magazine, hosts of the Global ATS-V event. “What’s perhaps more significant is that, for the first time in my experience in this industry, the major players seem aligned in their view of where we should be going: CBTA/EBTA leveraging the tremendous wealth of data available and AI to create adaptive, even personalised and highly cost-effective training.”
“Airline trainers and their industry partners have shown themselves once again to be flexible and innovative, as have the regulators whose role in enabling the community to move forward is so critical,” he added. “The industry needs to start to function again commercially and the airlines need to invest to save on long-term training costs while enabling the recovery of their training-dependent workforces.”
Day Three of Global ATS-V might be dubbed “acronym day” (though that’s true of most days in this business): CBTA, EBT, CRM, SEP, AI, VR, AR, MR, XR, UPRT … and MORE.
Frederik Mohrmann, EBT Program Manager for NLR, the Netherlands Aerospace Centre, set the table with an overview of the Global EBT Review conducted over the summer. The survey engaged 574 participants from 65 countries, 41% of them pilots, 25% heads of training, and 20% flight instructors. The predominant reason for implementing evidence-based training (40%) is training quality. About two-thirds of legacy carriers plan to implement EBT, but somewhat less (50%) of ATQP/AQP operators, which Mohrmann surmised, “They claim to have the same quality of training but at a lower complexity, and the cost benefit is not as great.” Barriers to embracing EBT including management buy-in and the new role for instructors.
Capt. Mike Varney, Managing Director of the EBT Foundation (and considered the ‘Father of Evidence-Based Training’), said “EBT is all about helping pilots to increase their capacity. It’s about providing exposure to help individual pilots develop their resilience.” He emphasised: “Competencies are the tools to operate effectively. If we have really good processes in the flight deck, we will have reliable outcomes.”
His co-presenter, Dr. Bill Cox, CEO of Madrid-based Management & Excellence SA, delineated how EBT has “substantial financial impact and benefits,” citing “impacts on safety, which reduces risk, and impacts on operating efficiency, which means avoided costs.”AI, artificial intelligence, was mentioned by numerous speakers, and was the focus of a presentation by Mikhail Klassen, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Paladin AI, a venture-backed startup in Montréal which is applying AI to data extracted from simulators to make training more adaptive. “The holy grail of evidence-based training would be if you could take all of your operations data, give it to some very intelligent piece of software, and have that software design the perfect recurrent training curriculum,” Klassen suggested, “where no time was wasted and all of the training was targeted at the specific weaknesses of any pilots working for your airline.” He noted as well, “By keeping instructors in the loop, the accuracy of those models will be continuously improved.”
IATA Manager of Cabin Safety, Jonathan Jasper, outlined some of the numerous challenges which the Covid-19 crisis poses for cabin crew training, including increased levels of sickness rates among crews and long periods of required quarantine afterwards, limiting the ability to attend training (as well as the inability to travel to training courses). Training centres, of course, are concerned about implementation of health guidelines within their facilities, including additional cleaning of equipment and changes to training activities to maintain social distancing. “All these lead to an inability to comply with mandatory practical training requirements and inability to deliver the required volume of training, resulting in a large number of expired licences.”
Jasper also noted mental health concerns triggered by both the fear of infection and job uncertainty. “Let’s not forget that cabin crew are people.”
Emirates Airline SEP Training Specialist Sofronios Taflanidis advocated for “living” CRM. Noting that his airline’s cabin crew represent 130 nationalities and speak 60 different languages, he explained, “With so many cultures, it’s not enough for a training program to just talk about crew resource management. It’s important to live and practice CRM.” Their “new normal” features more online modules and videos and less face-to-face training (in smaller groups). However, he strongly promoted combined cabin/pilot training as “critical and irreplaceable. It’s an opportunity to practice communication under stress and pressure.”
“Stress exposure training” was a sub-theme for Dr. Meredith Carroll and Capt. Shem Malmquist of Florida Institute of Technology College of Aeronautics. “By providing performers an opportunity to experience a realistic stress response, performers can learn what happens to their physiology in decision processes and develop methods for coping with these challenges,” said Dr. Carroll. A three-phase stress exposure training might include an information provision (in a non-stressful classroom), skill acquisition through training in stress-coping strategies, and practice in a stressful environment (such as a simulator).
Drawing on inputs from more than a dozen industry experts, Aviation Performance Solutions CEO, Paul “BJ” Ransbury described the desired future focus areas for Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT). These include expanded instructor training and quality standards (“Instructor ‘drift’ is a major issue and threat we all need to be aware of, especially at the air carrier level”); on-aircraft UPRT; flight envelope knowledge (“There are high altitude, high speed areas of knowledge that are really lagging in the industry”); and strategy (“Airlines are seeing the critical value of a strategy-based approach to UPRT – it’s really mitigating the threat of startle and surprise”).
Markus Heinonen, Vertical Lead, Simulation and Training, represented Finnish company Varjo, which has broken through the resolution barrier of earlier-generation VR/AR headsets. With their XR-1 ‘human-eye resolution’ display, “you can see details just like you would in real life,” Heinonen demonstrated. “This is always the goal – to be able to train as close to that real scenario that you would in real life.” The XR-1 also features an augmented or mixed reality capability which enables the digital VR to be integrated with the physical world, whether a simple joystick or a full cockpit mockup.
PACE Aerospace Engineering Global Head of Extended Reality, Josh Swanson, described their WEAVR XR ‘hardware-agnostic’ XR training platform. From the common platform, training can be applied in various formats on multiple devices: non-immersive but interactive VR on a tablet, a different table app with an AR component, immersive virtual reality including a collaboration session with a remote instructor, or adding a hologram. Calling for broad collaboration, Swanson predicted, “The industry will move in this direction with or without the regulators. The opportunity is now for regulators to proactively be part of shaping how XR technology is used.”
Representing the VR AR Association, Capt. Evey Cormican, a veteran Continental and United Airlines pilot and Founder-CEO of Visionary Training Resources, said, “Today’s learning methods (lecture, reading, audio-visual, demo) utilize passive learning, resulting in low retention rates” (about 10%). “VR (discussion, practice, teaching others) places the pilot in the flight deck environment, accelerating the learning curve. Studies show retention rates above 80%, after eight months, after training with active learning.”
The VR and AR market in aviation is projected to grow to US$1.4 billion by 2025, according to Allied Market Research.
We look forward to seeing you – in person – at another industry acronym: WATS (the World Aviation Training Summit) in the spring in Orlando, Florida.
Catch up on the reports from Days 1 and 2: