The Aircrew Training Policy Group, an independent cadre of subject experts who help to advise EASA, unofficially, on near-term issues and long-term strategies for flight training, has a new cast of characters and a range of ambitious projects. CAT Editor-in-Chief Rick Adams, FRAeS, spoke with new ATPG Chair, Capt. Andy Mitchell, FRAeS.

Andy-Mitchell.jpg“ATPG is very much a tactical group. Can we help the industry to have better communication channels, be able to speak and talk quicker to identify pain points and really just get feedback in both directions”, Capt. Mitchell told CAT. The former GB Airways and easyJet pilot and A320 trainer took on the Chairperson’s role of the Aircrew Training Policy Group earlier this year, succeeding Capt. Andy O’Shea, FRAeS (former Head of Flight and Cabin Crew Training for Ryanair and now CEO of Airline Pilot Club). Mitchell founded the Madrid, Spain-based aviation tech company, Use Before Flight, which focuses on evidence-based training solutions.

Above: Capt. Andy Mitchell, FRAeS - Chair, Aircrew Training Policy Group.

“We come to the group as independent experts within the industry. We're not an official advisory group and therefore we are not political at all. We are purely technical. When something comes up from one of our sub-groups where we want to feed it back to EASA, we do it via the right channels”, Mitchell explained.

“Everyone who is involved always knows that what we're doing is always for the good of the industry. And if we are being disruptive, it's because we see an opportunity to do something which is innovative for the future.”

The deliberately small group of a dozen volunteer members come from airlines, ATOs, associations, aircraft manufacturers, and industry. “We balance across industry very well”, Mitchell said. “We also have (non-voting) associate members, and we can also call upon other people in the industry to supplement our own knowledge. It's a really great opportunity to hear directly and immediately on the areas that we're looking to address and get feedback from them.”

For example, during the evolving Covid crisis, ATPG weighed in on Article 71 exemptions. “There was a little bit of misunderstanding in the industry about how to continue to apply those past the initial deadline of the end of March. We were in a position to feed that back to EASA and get a very quick turnaround back to the industry to explain how to do that.”

The ATPG has a continual challenge to balance members across the areas of industry, geographic locations and competencies to be most effective. “It is also really important, especially with CBTA, that we address it from a global perspective as well as European. Our latest member, Captain Veronica Zunic is a great example of how our efforts have paid off. She is a highly respected TRI/TRE with experience in multiple European and global regions, across different aircraft generations both at recurrent and type-rating level and brings a unique viewpoint from cargo operations too.”

“One of the key points moving forward”, he also emphasised, “is to make the team more diverse. We feel we have a responsibility, and we really want to lead from the front, bring in female representatives to ensure we have a good balance of viewpoints, competencies and role models to the industry.”

Key ATPG Projects

Following are comments from Capt. Mitchell on selected ATPG projects.

Test-Driven Development (Regulatory Sandboxing)

“In the tech industry, best practice for a decade or so has been the idea of sandboxing new code so you can innovate very safely without breaking the system that's in production. It also gives you really fast feedback loops to make changes very early rather than waiting to the end. The main tech industry companies call it test-driven (TD) development.

“You start with a benchmark set of data. And then you start to innovate. Every time you look to make an innovation, you have to also write the test to ensure that you don't break the system you have in place already. It's a very robust triangle ensuring that every change you make has been risk-assessed and benchmarked to ensure it provides for equivalent levels of safety, but also provides for innovation at the same time.

“As a long-term strategy, we would suggest bringing the sandbox into regulatory rulemaking tasks – to feed objective data which supplements the subjective expert data going into the rulemaking task. We'd be able to innovate safely and quickly and also check with a very fast feedback loop whether the ideas are working or not.”

Open-Book Exams

“Some of the specific exams that pilots take, for example, air law and operations, are actually a memory test. They have to memorise the answers to many questions. But when you become an airline pilot, that's the last thing we want pilots to do. We don't want our airline pilots to memorise the minima for landing in Gatwick. We want them to go to the book and know where to find it and check the minima, because doing things by memory is the first way that you end up with an incident.

“You forget things or they've changed over time. So we're looking at whether we could target a couple of the exams and do it more like the real-life airline pilots need to do it. The competency of application of knowledge is about the application of the knowledge rather than the knowledge itself.”

“Green Flag” ATOs

“We're looking at having a ‘green flag’ ATO, a certification scheme which would allow ATOs to demonstrate certain environmental standards. What we don't want to see is an ATO sets up with these new Pipistrel electric aircraft and then plugs them into a diesel generator around the back. We want to help set some standards regarding what a green flag might look like.”

Environmental Awareness Pilot Training

“We want to try to lead the way with regard to the conversation around environmental sustainability. How can we start to achieve environmental awareness in pilot training, both at the level of the pilots themselves, but also at the ATO and airline levels in terms of how we train pilots. Look to the behavioral markers and how quite a few of them already have a nice link across to environmental awareness. Let's not keep bolting things on. Let's make it work within what we have already to ensure that it really is seamless and part of the DNA as we go forward.

“We're starting to see now (aspiring) pilots choose flight schools based on how environmental they are and how they're reacting to new technologies. These pilots are much more environmentally aware than perhaps the previous generation, and they may start to drive the change by electing to go to these types of schools.”

Current ATPG projects



Test-driven development (regulatory sandboxing)

Innovation & Technology sub-group


Innovation & Technology sub-group



Open book exams

Environment & ATO

“Green flag” ATOs

Environment & ATO

Big Data 

Innovation & Technology sub-group in collaboration with Halldale

Environmental awareness pilot training integration to APS MCC

Environment & ATO


 ATPG Full Members

  • Andy Mitchell, Chair, Founder & President, Use Before Flight
  • Karl O’Neill, Secretary, Chief Instructor, Aer Lingus
  • Andy O’Shea, CEO, Airline Pilot Club
  • Andy Dow, Head of Regulatory Affairs (EMEA) – Training, Licensing & Operations, CAE
  • Kyle Johnston, Training & Compliance Manager, Chief Theoretical Knowledge Instructor, AFTA (Atlantic Flight Training Academy)
  • Thomas Leoff, Chairman, IAAPS (International Association of Aviation Personnel Schools)
  • Carl Davis, Director, Global Air Crew Operations, Boeing
  • Philip Adrian, CEO, MPS
  • Veronica Zunic, A300/A320/A330 TRI/TRE
  • Luis Martins, Head of Ground School, FTE Jerez
  • David Lord, Manager Regulatory Affairs - Europe, FlightSafety International
  • Christian Norden, CEO, GmbH

 Honorary Member

  • Peter Moxham, Former CEO, Oxford Air Training

Associate Members

  • Jens Frost, Centre Air Pilot Academy
  • Yann Renier, Head of Training and Licensing, IATA
  • Tanja Harter, Executive Board Director for Technical Affairs, European Cockpit Association

ATPG Mission Statement

Driving aviation industry conversation and innovation to enhance aircrew training quality, diversity and efficiency while increasing safety and environmental sustainability.

To contact the ATPG:

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