Aviation generally and aviation training in particular is an alphabet soup of industry associations and regulators. Naveed Kapadia sketches the remits of several of the groups who collaborate on standards, guidance and best practices.
The aviation training landscape is transforming. We are faced today with an abundance of information that comes to us from various sources. Augmented reality and virtual reality can be used in novel ways to improve situational awareness. Application of machine learning, Internet of things, Big Data and Blockchain to enhance safety management programmes, training needs analysis, and recruitment is beginning to take shape.
It is understandable then to adapt to the emerging technological trends and innovations in air transport and respond to them with timely and optimised aviation training solutions for the current and next generations of aviation professionals.
Aviation safety issues are revealed sometimes universally but often can affect different sectors and regions in different ways. Therefore, it is only logical to be concerned about how training is managed globally.
We reached out to several civil aviation training related organisations about their missions and challenges ahead. Most importantly, how to improve the safety and efficiency of training in the aviation sector through higher standards globally. Following is a snapshot of our stimulating discussions to highlight the remarkable efforts made by industry stakeholders.
The Aircrew Training Policy Group mission is to drive industry conversation and innovation to enhance aircrew training quality, diversity and efficiency while increasing safety and environmental sustainability. To achieve this, the main group of 12 industry experts work across five sub-groups in collaboration with associate members, external experts, and key EASA representatives. In the short term, this helps facilitate open communication channels between airlines, Approved Training Organisations (ATOs), Flight Training Organisations (FTOs) and the regulator while also looking beyond the current rulemaking tasks at potential long-term solutions to upcoming industry challenges.
Current noteworthy projects of the ATPG include:
- EASA EBT Manual Drafting. To support airlines further with implementing EASA EBT (ORO.FC.231), the ATPG is engaging with EASA to draft a practical guidance document.
- ATPL Open Book Exams. This white paper will promote an update to specific ATPL ground-school exams to make them better match the pilots' required competency set (e.g., application of knowledge rather than memory).
- ICAO CBTA Taskforce. To support EASA with input into the ICAO CBTA task force to assist with updates to ICAO Doc 9995 (Manual of Evidence-Based Training).
- Competency-to-Tool Approach. This white paper aims to empower airlines and ATOs to make optimum decisions when implementing new training technologies. It provides a future-proof methodology to effectively map from pilot competency development to suitable tools for creating a blended learning environment.
- Pilot Environmental Awareness Training. To create a positive environmental impact during the training process. The focus starts with the APS MCC course, where most value has been identified to develop positive new pilot behaviour early towards environmental initiatives, integrating into the Threat and Error Management model.
- Diversity within Aviation Training. The ATPG is committed to correcting this long-term and introducing more varied people with the right competencies into these crucial roles. At the EATS 2021 Head of Training roundtable, it was identified that gender diversity is a significant issue, particularly in the training management system where very few, if any, women had substantial roles.
“The ATPG continues to be a uniquely effective organisation within the European aviation industry, offering tactical support to airlines, ATOs and EASA while applying ‘blue skies’ thinking to solve future strategic challenges,” said Capt. Andy Mitchell, FRAeS, Chair, ATPG.
As part of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA), CAA International unites and exports half a century of UK regulatory know-how to help air transport and the aerospace industry. With technologies moving faster than the regulations designed to govern them, CAAi asserts that they need to manage safety and risks in the future. As a social enterprise, CAAi is committed to taking action to help overcome some of the most significant aviation challenges facing the developing world. Working closely with ICAO, they invest and provide targeted training to help drive regulatory improvement programmes needed most globally.
Covid-19 had a devastating impact on UK Aviation, with many aviation professionals across the sector forced out of work. CAAi has since been appointed as a training provider under the UK Department for Transport's Aviation Skills Retention Platform (ASRP). Aviation professionals currently unemployed who worked within the UK aviation sector before the pandemic have been eligible for enrolment, with course placements funded by the Department for Transport.
Sophie Jones, Head of Operations and Training at CAAi, told CAT: “With experts predicting air traffic not back to pre-Covid levels for several years, we all need to work together to support aviation's recovery from the pandemic. At the same time, the focus on our environmental and decarbonisation aviation has never been greater. Training is key. We remain fully committed to working with partners and supporting organisations across the globe to achieve more sustainable aviation, and with expert training fully equip the people who will lead the aviation of tomorrow.”
CAAi offer a Risk-Based Oversight and Surveillance training course to mitigate conditions that threaten aviation safety. Image credit: CAAi.
EASA’s role in terms of aviation personnel training is to draft implementing rules for use across the 31 EASA Member States (the EU 27 plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). EASA does not specifically offer training itself but sets the regulatory framework for the training of aviation personnel across the Member States.
Through their ‘Together4Safety’ Safety Promotion initiative, EASA provides guidance and support to the National Aviation Authorities and the industry to assist them with their work. The Agency also provides oversight and support to Member States in implementing EASA rules and monitors training effectiveness on aviation safety. EASA works at a global level with ICAO and promotes the use of worldwide standards, as they apply in the EASA States. Additionally, EASA cooperates with international organisations, including IATA, the Flight Safety Foundation, and others.
The Agency’s safety priorities are laid out in the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS). This is a 4-year rolling plan that is currently in its 11th Edition covering the period 2022 to 2026. This edition comprises three volumes with 183 actions covering 219 safety issues. Volume 1 sets out the strategic priorities, and currently, these include supporting the safe return to operations from the Covid-19 pandemic, which provides for activities explicitly to help manage the impact of skills and knowledge degradation during the pandemic.
Other priorities include improving safety through effective safety management and human factors, human performance, the competence of aviation personnel and the impact of socio-economic factors on safety.
“We want to ensure the highest level of safety – and we believe the new training technologies can help with that. They offer a broader scope of simulations, and the affordable pricing means that more in the aviation community are able to benefit,” said Jesper Rasmussen, EASA Flight Standards Director.
Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) has been a leading voice in aviation safety for 75 years, and its mission is to connect, influence, and lead global aviation safety. As safety issues are identified, the Foundation brings together the world's aviation experts to construct effective mitigations and solutions to these issues.
FSF use their network to understand the knowledge gained by investigating and studying aviation errors and mistakes and recognising the industry's changes and where safety issues are likely to develop. One of the most significant examples of change is the growing industry of remotely piloted or autonomous equipment. In 2020, FSF started the Autonomous and Remotely Piloted Aviation Capability (ARPAC) Advisory Committee to address safety considerations in uncrewed autonomous and semi-autonomous flight operations.
"At the Flight Safety Foundation, we study the safety issues carefully and look for proven solutions so that before long, the industry is measuring the years between accidents instead of the number of accidents every year", said Mark Millam, FSF Technical Programs and Events.
FSF support innovative training programs that understand the relevant tasks and subtasks for the specific operations a pilot will be flying. These programs require continuing re-evaluation as the operations change, and pilot recurring training should be designed with insight from safety risks realised in an operator's safety management system (SMS) programmes. FSF has authored working papers for ICAO events on training to competency and continues to look for ways to assure broader implementation of these programs for every aviation sector.
IATA has provided training to those working in the aviation industry for 50 years. In the past 20 years alone, more than one million aviation professionals participated in one of IATA’s training courses, which offer development from entry to executive level. As a global industry, aviation relies heavily on adherence to common standards. Setting these is part of IATA’s raison d’être, along with ensuring that the related training programs and documentation are made available. This work is, in many cases, done in conjunction and collaboration with international organisations or regulators, such as ICAO, FAA, UK CAA, and EASA.
IATA tells CAT that the workforce reduction brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has also affected management-level positions. They ensure that future leaders understand what drives airline costs and revenue and adjust strategy to maximise profitability. Airlines are in parallel re-thinking their business models.
Safety, sustainability and leadership are the three main areas at the forefront of IATA’s current training agenda, along with security and CBTA.
Moreover, with the heightened threat of cyberattacks, the need for cybersecurity training is also on the rise.
“As aviation rebuilds from the biggest crisis in its 100-year history, it is essential that those leading the transition into a more sustainable future possess the correct skillset. Ensuring that the corresponding training is made available to support this is more important than ever,” noted Stéphanie Siouffi-Vareilhes, IATA’s Director, Training.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation highlighted that their immediate objective is to ensure all countries access ICAO training, specifically regarding pandemic recovery activities.
The UN specialised agency’s training objective is to leverage the latest technologies and provide high-quality, economical training solutions by widening participation globally.
ICAO’s Global Aviation Training (GAT) aims to provide innovative training products and services to support the Member States and industries to comply with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and contribute to the evolving skills requirements of aviation professionals. ICAO has established an Aviation Training and Education Directory (ATED), which provides the Member States and the industry with over 350 training packages to support their human resources development and compliance activities.
Additionally, ICAO is partnering with other international/regional organisations, trade associations and academia to jointly develop and deliver relevant training to support the evolving needs of the industry. These partnerships, including those with academic institutions, helps to realise significant synergies and efficiencies. And under the frame of the TRAINAIR PLUS programme, they contribute to developing programmes to address the needs and expectations of the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP).
“ICAO’s Global Aviation Training activities help assure that no country is left behind in terms of their human resources development and the wide-ranging skill sets which the international aviation industry relies on. Our objective is to provide aviation professionals worldwide with diversified, innovative, and high-quality training solutions focused on relevant key competencies, delivered cost-effectively and with improved global accessibility for States and their aviation professionals. Working in close coordination with training organisations, academia, and other international partners is essential to achieving this objective,” commented Diego Martinez, Chief, ICAO Global Aviation Training.
The Royal Aeronautical Society is the only global organisation serving the entire aviation and aerospace community as a learned society and professional engineering institution. As such, the RAeS is independent, evidence-based, and authoritative, relying on a body of knowledge going back more than 150 years. The RAeS mission is to further the advancement of aeronautical art, science, and engineering worldwide.
David Edwards, FRAeS, Chief Executive of the Society, said: “We fulfil our mission in many ways, but part of that is adding to the body of knowledge, stimulating debate, and ensuring policymakers, regulators, and other actors in our industries are well-informed. Our specialist groups are hugely valuable and contain possibly the world’s greatest concentration of expertise and knowledge within their specialisms. On training, in particular, the work of the Flight Crew Training specialist group is crucial, but so too is the work of our Human Factors, General Aviation, and Flight Operations specialist groups, all of which contribute to our work in this area.”
The RAeS mission is to further the advancement of aeronautical art, science, and engineering worldwide. Image credit: RAeS.
In the UK, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has been the independent voice of general aviation for over 50 years, lobbying on behalf of pilots, instructors, aircraft owners, flight training, and other GA-related businesses. AOPA's role is to ensure that aviation careers are seen positively, as GA is considered the nursery and first contact for future professional aviation personnel. This means that AOPA works with regulators to ensure that the requirements are risk-based and proportionate. As an organisation primarily interested in general aviation, AOPA's mission is to "facilitate the movement of general aviation aircraft nationally and internationally and to increase the utilisation of general aviation aeroplanes as a means of personal and business transport."
AOPA only offer instructor refresher courses, but the corporate members provide flight training. Martin Robinson, CEO of AOPA (UK), summarised: “The best safety device in any aircraft is a well-trained pilot.” The challenge will be getting the policies that support the activity right. In its primary sense, a significant challenge is that aviation is a pool that feeds off itself, but everything starts with the student pilot, said Robinson.
As we leave the Covid-19 pandemic behind us, many aviation professionals are exploring the opportunity to upskill in broad aviation-related areas. Based on the regional and global projections for pilots, maintenance personnel, and air traffic controllers, expected growth will create shortages of skilled personnel in these areas. In addition, there are hundreds of different professions in the air transport system, from jobs in aviation medicine to security, accident investigation, air law, flight dispatching, aircraft design, to name a few.
The organisations referenced here, and many more not mentioned, address our most critical capacity gaps globally. How we redefine our efficiencies and integrate innovations in air transport will be vital to the survival of the future aviation ecosystem.
The future training needs against the combination of staff reductions and retirements or pilots simply leaving the industry set up a monumental training challenge for the future. The situation is further exacerbated for many more skilled aviation roles. Perhaps companies and organisations may wish to consider how on-the-job mentoring can play an essential role in developing overall human performance when replacing one skilled generation of technical professionals with another. Implementation of safety programmes, environmental protection initiatives, integration of uncrewed aircraft, cybersecurity, diversity and other challenges will continually be complex to manage.