The ATPG (Aircrew Training Policy Group) was the first EASA Advisory Board to be established and it is interesting to understand how and why it came about and how it has developed since its inception.
To explain: Halldale Group hold an annual conference and trade show in Europe for the Professional Pilot training community (the European Aviation Training Summit - EATS); this attracts a large number of delegates from around the world but particularly from Europe. The event lasts two days with a reception for delegates on the evening before the opening of the event. Most delegates arrive at the venue the evening before the start and since all were assembled it was thought that it would be a good idea to let all meet and have some useful discussions. Thus, the Head Of Training (HoT) forum was established, chaired originally by the author.
One of the main problems identified at the very beginning was the lack of contact available between industry and the regulator (EASA) and so whilst about 100 Heads of Training attended it was equally important the regulator was present.
At the second such meeting, everyone knew who would attend and came prepared to voice their views, and this they did in a rather aggressive stance. The EASA delegation was led by Trevor Woods, a main Board member of EASA, and he was horrified at the strength of feeling expressed by the delegates, who basically said that they all felt that EASA was out of touch with those that it regulated in this field – it was not a pleasant meeting! Trevor approached me immediately afterwards and asked could we have a meeting that evening, immediately after he had called his chairman, and this was agreed. Thus, EASA requested that what became the ATPG was established that evening.
I was asked to consult as soon as possible with the professional pilot training industry and suggested 12 names to form the original ATPG – each individual had to be an experienced professional in his/her own field and to be acknowledged in the industry community. Trevor asked for a list of names before the end of the EATS meeting! The following 24 hours were very busy as the list had to be agreed by industry as being genuinely representative of the European industry and cover all facets of the professional pilot training sector. It had to be multi-national and cover not just the big Training Schools (ATOs) but the airline training departments and schools large and small, flying, theoretical and simulator training – and a total of just 12 individuals! At this point Thomas Leoff from Lufthansa Flight Training worked with me and is still a leading ATPG member.
Somehow this was all achieved in an acceptable manner for industry and EASA took the list of individuals (note: all were individuals and not specific companies).
About two weeks later Thomas and I were asked to go to a meeting with Trevor Woods and others in the EASA offices in Koln (Cologne), where EASA put forward their views on the names submitted and they accepted all the individuals, announced the name – ATPG – and set out a date for the first meeting. For such an organisation to move so quickly demonstrated just how concerned they were and whilst still willing to take part in EATS they most certainly did not want ever to have a repeat of the original Heads of Training meeting.
Thus ATPG was formed, a completely new concept for EASA, who have taken a very active role in ATPG activities ever since.
ATPG always has an industry member as its chair, the current chairperson being the third in its history, and the group has never moved from its objectives and has been very successful in ensuring that the needs of the industry were well understood in Koln. But of course this is an ongoing dialogue which none of those involved wish to see end. Membership is still limited to 12 industry representatives and although names have changed over the years it is pleasing to see many of the original members still playing an active role. ATPG has evolved and now produces its own technical papers and helps establish new ATPG groups in other parts of the world.
It is good to report that the group holds frequent meetings and still has its main annual event at EATS (this year number 20, being held in November in Berlin).
A word about EASA – none of this would ever have happened had EASA not realised that it was indeed out of touch with this sector which it regulates – certainly not the case today and their continued willingness to take an active part, not just in EATS but a significant participation in ATPG, has led to a better understanding on all sides.
It is a sad fact that far too many accidents and incidents investigated by the accident investigators around the world prove that nearly all have a reference to training failures in their findings – every year there is proof that we still have not resolved all the issues – we probably never will BUT safety is the key matter for all aviation. ATPG is there to try to help improve safety and nobody in this industry should ever lose sight of this. We have seen huge changes and will see many more, but I like to think that those involved learn from past mistakes and it is vital for both regulators and regulated to ensure that this occurs.
I believe that every National Aviation Authority should learn from having this sort of regulator-industry discussion. We all are aware that the industry is still evolving and change is ongoing but it is unreasonable to expect only regulators to understand the best way to improve their regulations. I believe we have all learned a lot since the first Heads of Training meeting that brought the group into existence – it works both ways and has resulted in better legislation and understanding.
Peter Moxham’s distinguished career in aviation training dates to the 1970s when he was Commercial Director of the Oxford Air Training School. He currently operates the Peter Moxham Associates consultancy and is Director of the British Business & General Aviation Association.