As the world comes out of the pandemic and begins to consider declaring Covid as endemic the airlines too are emerging into a brave new world of their own.
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Even after the huge disruption of 911 our industry did not ‘completely shut down’, its meetings stayed open and in general the airline world rapidly adjusted to a new security conscious reality and began to rebuild.
As we moved into 2022 we were in unique territory; the airline world is still coming back by country and region as each develops its resilience toward covid. Whilst the operators have been supported by government they come out of the crisis with heavy debt and in some cases only a cadre of personnel on which to rebuild. For some this will be more like a ‘start’ not a ‘re-start’.
For some this will be more like a start not a re-start.
The usual connectivity that has supported the airline world has been disrupted and large meetings, such as our own, have been postponed and cancelled taking away the opportunity for discussion and the comparing of ideas and processes. All at a time when many senior community leaders took earlier retirement than had been planned; recent surveys suggest that 51% of over 55’s have left the workforce in the last two years. I might guess that number to be higher in our community; either way we have lost a lot of experience and hard-earned knowledge. At the same time cadet and ab initio programs were put on hold and universities, ab initio schools closed.
On the technology front, through 2019 and into early 2020, there was general discussion of new training technologies that we expected to employ around 2024/25. Many argue, and I tend to agree, that the two years or so of Covid have telescoped that timeline by two or three years i.e. we need to start employing them in 2022. Not least because they may allow greater efficiency.
Across that period, regulators have been working to allow the rapid introduction of new training regimes and regulatory change has also accelerated.
The promise of faster, better training based on blended learning, AI, AR/VR, Machine learning etc. is now an urgent need as we seek to attract new, young and capable staff to the airline world. Sadly the critical recent initiatives in training, EBT, UPRT, CBTA are not well or uniformly understood across the world and the possibility of negative training is high.
Funding for training will have to become a focus for government not just for industry. It will be key to allowing recruitment of a diverse workforce that the vast majority of us accept is the only way forward for our industry. If government can fund education and training for the professions like medicine and the law why not for professional pilot training? It is time for action in this regard.
If you think training is expensive try paying for an accident
Finally, airline accidents through 2020 (15) and 2021 (12), leading to 332 and 134 fatalities respectively, were not encouraging considering that activity levels were massively reduced.
Moreover, these were operational accidents and were not caused by rogue armed forces or associated with the
Max, as they were in 2018 (534 fatalities) and 2019 (257). Anecdotally, and not surprisingly, the number of errors and near misses is on the increase
We need to keep a close eye on those accident rates and the near misses. Aside from the human suffering involved, it is not just the unfortunate aircraft manufacturer and the individual operator that face the music if numbers increase or spike, it will affect us all,
It is also very evident that a training industry built to sustain operations is a long way from one able to restart operations. Perhaps the biggest of the many questions we will discussing and attempting to answer is, what does our industry need to do, how does it do it, and what does it need to look like as it does it?
Finally to reprise a saying that was current when I first got into the airline training industry 30 plus years ago; ‘if you think training is expensive try paying for an accident’.