Airbus Expands the Front-End

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This is the first of a series of articles to explore the full range of Airbus training courses across pilot, technician and cabin crew training. Before the virus lockdown took effect in France, Chris Long visited a new academy in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.

Historically aircraft OEMs limited the training they delivered to providing type ratings to support initial deliveries of an aircraft order. That has gradually been enriched by making recurrent training available, and then beyond to a broad range of additional qualifications – command upgrades, instructor and examiner ratings, CRM instructor courses and so on. Now training is of such a scale that it has become a separate business and revenue stream.

For many years the Airbus pilot training courses started at a level that was geared to pilots already holding a licence. Two factors have now modified that – the increased demand for pilots means that the ab initio task has hugely increased, and the observation that in the rush to answer that demand the global quality of recently licenced pilots is widely variable. Not only could that, left unchecked, potentially have an impact on safety, but poor initial training could well result in a waste of the potential talent of new entries.

Some years ago Airbus took a step back to look at overall pilot training requirements, and constructed the Airbus Flight Training Reference, the aim of which was to create a global harmonised standard in Airbus flight training, implemented in all Airbus training programmes. As part of that, plans were made for direct Airbus involvement in ab initio pilot training.

As reported last year in CAT 2/2019, the Ab Initio Pilot Cadet Training Programme was launched in December 2018, and the partner flight school, the Escuela de Aviacion Mexico (EAM) in Mexico City, started its first course in January 2019. The second flight school partner was in fact the first wholly owned Airbus ab initio pilot training facility in Europe and is now well established at Angoulême, France.

The Airbus Flight Academy Europe, run by Jean Longobardi, President and CEO, is up and running, and is equipped with a new fleet of the latest variant of the Cirrus SR20, fitted with Garmin 1000 avionics and three-axes autopilot. The multi-engine flying is on the Diamond DA42 VI, supported by an Alsim AL42 FTD2, also fitted with Garmin 100NXI glass cockpit and three-axes autopilot. The aim is to start with platforms which lead seamlessly to operation of the A320.

The Airbus selection procedures are the same wherever in the world a candidate is trained. The standard Airbus course is an 18-month Integrated CPL-IR-ME syllabus, followed by a one-month MCC/JOC in an Airbus Training Centre.

Already several cohorts of self-sponsored students are in training in France, the reputation of the Airbus brand having drawn them from around the world. Airlines will shortly be sending their own cadets to Angoulême, and whilst those airlines will carry out their own selection, all students starting at an Airbus Flight Academy will also complete the full Airbus selection processes. The final part of selection takes place after 18 flight hours, when an assessment of the progress and potential of the student can be done before continuing for the complete course.

There are active plans to increase the number of training centres over the next few years – a new one in Chile in 2021, followed by others around the world at the rate of three to five a year. This is to ensure a stream of newly minted and competent licence holders ready to go straight to the A320 type rating and onward to life as an airline pilot.

Published in CAT issue 2/2020

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