Impressions of EATS Live

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Sometimes we don’t truly appreciate something until we don’t have it anymore.

With the return of EATS and WATS as live, in-person events this year, many of us re-realised how valuable it is to get together as a training and simulation community. Virtual online events, though necessary during the pandemic, simply do not generate the buzz of being there with flesh-and-blood colleagues.

Philip Adrian, CEO of MPS, reflected the comments of many in a post-EATS blog: “We were able to rekindle old friendships, make new ones and talk business in-person with colleagues, customers and even competitors”.

It was stimulating to see many old friends in full 3D; I also sensed many new players, younger, and they are absolutely vital to the health of our industry.

I did a mental double-take when we arranged a meeting with Seppo and Markus of professional VR/MR headset developer Varjo. Instinctively, I told myself, ‘I know them,’ then realised I had not yet met them in person – we’d only engaged through multiple webinars and Zoom conversations across many months!

The turnout for EATS was phenomenal – more than 750 participants, not far off attendance levels pre-Covid. This speaks to the innate desire to network and engage in the in-depth conversations that can only occur F2F. I probably learned more in two days than I could spending months hunched over the computer. Especially the type of unique insights that don’t get printed in sanitised press releases.

I am continually impressed by the collaboration in the civil aviation training industry. Though there are natural tensions between regulators and the regulated, and between operators and suppliers, the overarching objective of everyone in the conference was to improve airline, business aviation and civil helicopter safety. There’s a sharing of ideas, concerns, and best practices that is unprecedented in most business domains.

EATS Briefing

The cornerstone of any EATS conference, of course, is the ‘annual report’ briefing from EASA representatives.

The updated roadmap for the FSTD capability signature (FCS) concept now incorporates both aeroplane and helicopter type ratings and operator training. A Phase I opinion is expected in 2022, with Phase 2 - implementation transition and applicability - in the 2024-25 timeframe.

Other rule-making activities on the near horizon include:

  • An adequate supply of competent instructors
  • Increase FSTD credits in initial helicopter licensing
  • FSTD Special conditions (VTOL, Airship and new FSTD innovations)
  • Relief pilot requirements (CRP/CRCP)
  • Digital pilot licensing (dLAP)
  • Increase pilot age (>60) single pilot HEMS operations 
  • EBT Phase 2
  • ICAO Personnel Training & Licensing Panel

An ambitious agenda, and one which CAT will address extensively throughout the coming year.

EATS Quick Takeaways

In future posts, I’ll highlight some of the presentations; for now, here are a few takeaways:

Bernard Bourdon, EASA: temporary provisions are over, aviation "training is back on track".

EASA Flight Standards Director Jesper Rasmussen admits regulators may not like revolutions such as eVTOL, "they may come anyway".

Airbus head of flight training Stephan Labrucherie: "resilience = competence + confidence".

CAE training policy director Capt David Owens: "evidence is processed data. We can use it to look for something we DON’T know."

Boeing director global aircrew operations Carl Davis: over 2m new aviation professionals in the next 20 years - 612,000 pilots, 626,000 MTX, 886,000 cabin.

Dr Sunjoo Advani, IDT, Upset Recovery expert: "You can't take the 'startle' out of the pilot, but you can take the pilot out of the startle."

New ATPG Chair Andy Mitchell advises airlines to "take the regulator along on the journey to evidence-based training".

Halldale's Journey

Halldale Group, like most in aviation, was severely impacted by the pandemic. I think we’ve emerged a somewhat different, and better, organisation – to the ultimate benefit of the training community.

In the absence of live events, we created a range of virtual meetings – such as the three-day, 45-hours-of-content Global Aviation Training Symposium - Virtual (GATS-V) last November. (Seems longer ago, so much has happened since.) It was a massive undertaking, not without a couple of technical hiccups, as with most online events. The important thing is it re-engaged people in the dialogues that had gone dormant for months as global commercial aviation struggled to regain some forward momentum.

One casualty last year was the annual Heads of Training (‘HoT’) meeting, traditionally held on EATS eve. No EATS, no HoT.  But with the urging of EASA and others in the community, Halldale, led by Captain Jacques Drappier, staged a ‘Virtual HoT’ meeting in February to keep the conversation moving around significant industry issues.

That session yielded five HoT topics – Skills Fade, VR/AR/MR/XR, CBTA/EBT, Big Data, and UPRT – about which training leaders wanted to discuss in greater depth. So we organised a series of workshops with a dozen or so subject experts for each topic, then distilled their roundtable (or rectangular window) exchanges into webinars, which were broadcast to the entire training community. There are also text summaries for each topic, available on the website for your reference.

Didn’t stop there. The leaders suggested further action.

So together with a few volunteers with the right expertise and experience, an ongoing working group was formed on Big Data to produce an industry-wide summary of best practices, lessons learned, and ultimately common definitions. The Big Data group includes ATPG Chair Andy Mitchell, Scott Nutter (Touch & Go Solutions) from the US, Jur Crijen (NLR), Patrizia Knabl-Schmitz (Emirates), Luis Martins (Flight Training Europe), and Halldale’s Allyson Kukel.

We expect to be doing similar with CBTA/EBT (and the US competency-based framework, AQP), as well as solicitation of UPRT best practices from around the world.

These five themes dominated the conference sessions at EATS, and will do so as well at the next WATS, 3-5 May 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

(Just a word about the Halldale team. In my view, my colleagues represent the essence of the word ‘resilience,’ a term sprinkled throughout the presentations with respect to aviation training. Through the pandemic, this small group adapted to rapidly changing modes of communication to keep the industry informed. And, despite travel and other limitations, they pulled off two major live conference/exhibitions - plus numerous online events, websites and magazines - with efficiency and their typical enthusiasm.)


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