WATS 2024 maintenance Track Session 8 on VR/AI sealed the deal, so to speak – confirming the commercial aviation maintenance community has indeed radically changed course to the future.

This year’s WATS and its maintenance track provided glimpses through the week of this sector’s evolution. Presenters discussed the changes brought about by the new FAA Part 147, the move toward competency-based training, the imperative of recruiting new accessions into this community and related topics.

In Session 8, the capstone focus was on AI, VR and other enabling technologies – all designed to align training strategies to Gen Z, strengthen ROIs from funded training programs and provide other favorable efficiencies and outcomes.

Irwin Alcantra, Director, Customer Success – Americas at Loglevel, matter-of-factly presented studies which point to AI changing work and other factors of daily life.

Let’s not forget commercial aviation, where corporate leaders are investing in AI to make it ubiquitous across the enterprise, from pilot training to maintenance training to flight operations to safety to customer service.

Yet, airlines are being challenged to align the pace and scope of introducing AI into their organizations as a graying, aging workforce retires and is replaced by tech-savvy workforce entrants. There are ample opportunities to use AI in maintenance training in: lessons, graphics, videos, voice narrations, essay evaluations and other purposes.

The industry representative noted issues linger and need resolution as AI is introduced in the community. Alcantra’s three top challenges included accuracy of the AI-enabled product, data privacy and unscrupulous exploitation. 

Aliesha Staples brought her background in film and TV production, and visual effects to WATS, along with some attention-getting remarks.

The subject matter introduced delegates to the notion that technologies, be it AR, VR and others, have “hype curves,” in essence life cycles.

These curves often move quickly through several years and are complete with follow-on troughs of disillusionment and other attributes.

Staples offered there are lessons learned from these technologies analyses. In one case, headset hardware prices in some instances were reduced by 50 percent over several years.

Similarly, software is no longer bespoke and should be bought off-the-shelf. Staples asserted these benefits occur “as there is a time and place for everything.” And then there are ROIs to be gained on technology investments for training.

The presenter’s discussion points included: how to get started; should materiel be bought off-the-shelf or leased; how will the trainee access the hardware, and others.

The presence of new exhibitor HTX Labs at WATS 2024 and session presenter Dre Fournier, the company’s Vice President of Growth, is noted for several reasons. The company has competencies and accomplishments in the defense maintenance market that could translate into scalable, easy to convert solutions for the adjacent commercial airline market. 

Further, HTX has experience bringing technologies to bear that provide immersive, competency-based training for learners. While touching briefly on the company’s EMPACT immersive learning platform as its offering to scale and enable learning, Fournier noted technology solutions are also gained by way of OEM partnerships, to help deliver digital twins and other learning enablers.                              

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