This author is hesitant to using “disruption” to describe developments in the commercial aviation training enterprise, but that it accurately characterizes what is happening in maintenance training.  

Forcing functions, including increased digitalization, advancements in materiels such as composites are compelling training programs to align their strategies with the evolving needs of new aircraft entering commercial service. Concurrently, a surge in enabling technologies, including XR (extended reality), data analytics and digital twin is encouraging these same training organizations to transition from hands-on, hours-intensive instruction to more student-centric models. 

This article marks the beginning of a series on maintenance training across high-risk enterprises. While this feature article provides insights into developments at three randomly-selected organizations within the civil aviation industry, follow-on articles will explore advancements in the defense aviation market and beyond.     

Shaping the Learning Environment

Training organizations are responding to a confluence of factors shaping their maintenance programs. 

Christian Delmas, Head of Airbus Maintenance Training, emphasized the significant impact of regulations on maintenance Type training. He noted its evolution is closely tied to regulatory changes regarding “content, tools/environment, duration” and other attributes.

Additionally, emerging technologies found onboard new aircraft are driving the need for maintenance personnel to adapt to evolving maintenance life-cycles. Gilbert Sim, Director, Aftermarket Global Operations Technology and CORE at Pratt & Whitney, noted at the component level, as engine technology continues to evolve with a focus on supporting the industry in achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, new technologies will dramatically alter the industry over the next 20 years. “With this comes our upskilling and reskilling of our maintenance personnel to ensure they have training in the latest technologies, including automation and digitization.” 

In another part of this sector, Harald Schween, Head of Sales & Marketing at Lufthansa Technical Training, underscored the importance of addressing cybersecurity and the integration of digital systems in training programs as aircraft systems become increasingly digitized and interconnected. “Advancements in digital training technologies enable personalized and flexible learning through e-learning platforms. These trends drive the evolution of Lufthansa Technical Training programs to meet the dynamic needs of the aviation industry.” 

Regulations, new aircraft technologies and emerging learning technologies are accelerating the transformation of maintenance training, moving beyond traditional instruction methods to embrace emerging learning technologies.  

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Christian Delmas, Head of Airbus Maintenance Training, emphasized the significant impact of regulations on maintenance Type training (above). He noted its evolution is closely tied to regulatory changes regarding “content, tools/environment, duration” and other attributes. Image credit: Airbus   

Technology Insertions

Airbus has long integrated the “Learning by Doing” concept supported by the ACT Suite (Airbus Competence Training), which combines theoretical and practical training to enhance knowledge retention. Delmas further explained ACT allows trainees to practice on a Maintenance Simulation Training Device with a virtual cockpit and a virtual aircraft. “With ACT, trainees can practice tasks they could not perform at the same extent even in a real aircraft environment (e.g., troubleshooting procedures).”

In a second focus area, Airbus, in collaboration with Air France-KLM, proposes Engine Run-Up courses on a virtual reality (VR) device. “This solution reduces the need for full-flight simulator access, thus offering additional flexibility mainly for difference and refresher courses,” the community executive said.    

Below the OEM level, P&W’s maintenance training has evolved to integrate new technology into the traditional instructor-led, hands-on, training methods. For example, the company has developed a 3-D application called EngineExplorer (EE) for its GTF (geared turbofan), V2500 and F-35 (Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter) engine models. Sim explained this application allows instructors to separate and rotate the engine, to isolate engine systems, to search for specific parts, and to annotate to highlight areas of the engine. “Used during the classroom portion of the course, this application enhances the understanding and increases participation. The development of EngineExplorer also enabled us to utilize virtual reality training to enhance our Line and Base training. EE is the foundation that allows easy creation of VR models and animations.” Further, Pratt & Whitney is incorporating both VR and Augmented Reality (AR) into its training curriculum. The executive commented that currently, VR and AR require specialized equipment, application programming, fast computer processing and either a reliable, secure, network or significant data storage or both. Because of these requirements, both applications are easy to deploy in settings such as training centers or MROs. “However, our team is in the process of deploying our VR training to desktops, laptops and tablets to be able to reach as many employees and customers as possible with special equipment no longer required. At the same time across our worldwide footprint, we are investing in our capacity, capability and technology now, with an eye to the future, to transform operations and ensure we deliver for our customers.” P&W has observed with the aviation industry now recovering from the recent years of the pandemic, there is a huge push underway in the aviation industry towards digitalization, with the company focused on more than XR. “On the shop floor of our MRO facilities, we are introducing new technology and equipment. Some of these technologies involve data analytics as well as robotics, advanced inspection, connected factory and digital twin,” he significantly emphasized.

Elsewhere, LTT is all in with interactive e-learning and adjacent instructional enablers. Schween, noted his organization provides a variety of e-learning modules, like LUNEEK™ (web-based training for Part-66 [EASA regulation on licensing of aircraft maintenance engineering personnel]), tailored to individual preferences and schedules. The executive added these modules cover aircraft systems, maintenance procedures, regulations, and safety protocols. “Trainees can access materials online, learning at their own pace from anywhere with internet access. LUNEEK offers interactive features like simulations and quizzes for better engagement and retention. Trainees can also opt for virtual classroom sessions for interactive discussions and feedback. Our personalized e-learning empowers technicians to enhance their skills efficiently.” One “deep dive” on LTT’s e-learning modules focuses on composite materials’ maintenance and repair. These modules cover topics such as composite material properties, damage assessment, repair techniques, and safety considerations. The organization’s trainees receive hands-on experience with composite materials through practical exercises in dedicated training facilities equipped with state-of-the-art composite repair equipment. Schween continued, “Additionally, our instructors, who are experts in composite materials, provide comprehensive guidance and support throughout the training process. By offering tailored training in composite materials, Lufthansa Technical Training ensures that technicians are well-prepared to effectively maintain and repair composite components on commercial aircraft.”

ROIs Through Evolving Instructional Designs

Maintenance training programs are integrating big data, XR, e-learning and other technologies to deliver customized solutions and ensure safe and efficient maintenance operations.  

Delmas again emphasized maintenance type training is heavily impacted by the regulations, but noted in the near future, Airbus Type training will adapt the Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBTA) concept, thus moving away from volumes of hours, towards a better focus on required training to fill the competency gap and the associated suitable competency assessment. He concluded that for continuation training, big data technology offers a huge opportunity to bring customized solutions to the market and provides continuation training solutions adapted to customer operational requirements – always looking for safe and efficient maintenance operations. “Airbus collects in-service experience feedback from 1000s aircraft in operations which can be processed.” 

P&W’s Sim called attention to his organization having already made a step-change, integrating new technology into the traditional instructor-led, hands-on, training methods, to establish more advanced virtual options that have reduced costs and enabled instructors to train more people with fewer assets. The executive added, “Using our EngineExplorer foundation, we will continue to incorporate technology changes into our training methods, always ensuring that we maintain our high quality and that we are evolving our training alongside these advanced, new technologies to ensure the success our employees.”


P&W is seeking personnel (above) comfortable with interacting with computers and wearable devices and possessing skills in programming and coding to support automation, digital twinning and other forward-leaning technologies. Credit: P&W.

Shaping this Next-Generation Workforce 

There are additional, emerging business opportunities for the suppliers of simulation and training products, systems and services to provide the technology to the commercial aviation maintenance training enterprise. At the same time, this sector is looking for motivated, competent and tech savvy individuals to enter its workforce.  

LTT’s Schween suggested the S&T industry focus on several key areas to meet sector requirements – customization and flexibility, and scalability and accessibility. In the first case, solutions should be customizable to fit the specific requirements of different programs, and offer flexibility in simulations, modules, and learning materials. The executive added, “Solutions should [also] cater to both small and large programs and be accessible across platforms and devices for remote and flexible learning. For maintenance training, economies of scale and commercial viability are key for the implementation of simulation solutions!”  

Beyond industry solutions, P&W’s Sim outlined the skill sets and other attributes his organization is seeking in its future workforce. As the machine-learning aspect of maintenance training continues to mature, P&W is looking for personnel driven to expand on the innovative technologies the company is developing around automation, advanced inspection, connected factory and digital twin. “We want to optimize both the role of humans and machines to continuously improve MRO shop performance and operational efficiency. When we look to the future, we are looking for technicians that are comfortable interacting with computers and wearable devices, as well as those with programming and coding skills to support these advancing technologies.”


Next Community Focus 

The second part of this series on maintenance training developments will focus on the defense sector – and its expanding interest in AI, predictive maintenance other capabilities being embraced by the commercial aviation industry.  

Watch for the article’s posting later this spring.