There was no respite in the quick-paced overarching AI community activities as Halldale Group convened this April’s WATS 2024. In one case, this April 24, Meta released its quarterly report with the pronouncement that it would spend as much as $40 billion more to develop AI.  Moving beyond investments by Meta and other technology companies, is the attention-getting, stark reality that global commercial aviation organizations remain focused like a laser on integrating AI across their portfolio. As early as 2021, Alaska Airlines completed a trial of Flyways AI by Airways Intelligence to optimize route planning.    

While airlines are embracing AI to better support other functions – customer service, ground operations and like functions – there is also a frenetic pace to use AI in the community’s training programs.

Of importance, unanswered, definitive details remain about ROIs, strengths and weaknesses, and other attributes of AI products – creating a fertile opportunity for CAT and Halldale Group to further examine this sector.        

AI as a WATS 2024 Conference Highlight

AI was front and center on the minds of WATS 2024 exhibitors and session presenters. But a spoiler alert – don’t expect any exclamation marks in this report. While there were no major related contracts or other acquisition vehicles announced during the four days, training program leaders across the community revealed they are eyeing the deliberate, paced expansion of AI-enabled learning in their activities. 

In one community sector, Christian Theuermann, member of the executive board, AXIS Flight Simulation, noted “We’ve developed a debrief solution based on AI where we support instructors to provide more objective feedback.” AXIS’s collaborative partners to advance AI includes Palantir.

In the maintenance sector, delegates heard Irwin Alcantra, Director, Customer Success – Americas at Loglevel, present studies which pointed to AI changing work and other factors of daily life. Of immediate relevance, 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. The AI subject matter expert then offered there are ample opportunities to use AI in maintenance training in: lessons, graphics, videos, voice narrations, essay evaluations and other purposes.

Addressing the fast-paced eVTOL market Chase Schulze, Director of Engineering Services at Systems technology, Inc. highlighted the imperative to train next-generation eVTOL pilots with AI-based adaptive learning. The industry expert offered instances of where AI can be enlisted during the eVTOL pilot continuum of learning – with several cases included AI-recommended content tailored to the learner.

Next Steps?

While WATS attendees learned of sound, early business cases in which to invest in AI for different commercial aviation training purposes, unanswered questions and opinions on how to best integrate this enabling technology are cascading – in some cases begging for solutions. 

Front and center is the question: how smart are ChatGPT and other AI tools invoked during the conference’s sessions? While this author heard instances in sessions and on the exhibition floor that AI may provide, or is providing early, enhanced capabilities, there was a sense that program managers, instructors and other training program leaders, including decision makers, were unaware of tests, measurements and other criteria to help differentiate among tools, and most important, educate and inform their stakeholders (including investors) about ROIs.   

This is a lead-in to the imperative for creating AI standards that could support commercial aviation training teams.

At this nascent juncture, there are huge, important opportunities for the community – from training organizations to AI product suppliers to regulators and others – to help advance this technology for learning across the aviation. Halldale Group looks forward to supporting and participating in this discussion for civil aviation as well as defense and other high-risk enterprises.    

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