EATS 2008

EATS 2008

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EATS Lands Again in Vienna

11–12 November 2008 • Austria Trend Eventhotel Pyramide • Vienna • Austria 

CAT Magazine’s 7th annual European Airline Training Symposium drew record delegate numbers as it explored “Best Practise in European Aviation Training.” Conference chair Chris Lehman reports on two days of intensive discussion and debate.

Credit: David Malley/Halldale Media

On the evening before the conference, chief moderator Peter Moxham led an informal yet jam-packed meeting of “Training Heads”, which stimulated much discussion on the subjects to be discussed in the ensuing conference, particularly the looming new EASA flight crew licensing and flight operations regulations.

As opening day unfolded it was clear that despite the challenging times, a record-setting 380 delegates, 44 exhibiting companies, and over 40 air carriers had journeyed to Vienna to embrace what has become Europe’s largest aviation training conference. Before the maintenance delegates split off into their own conference room, all delegates heard keynote addresses, which sought to put the industry into context. They included discussions of the current economic impact and the significant restructuring occurring in Europe. While the environmental impact of the sector is small – less than 2% of global CO2 emissions – that share will grow as the industry expands. Operational procedure changes can help mitigate the impact.

The opening sessions also emphasised current safety initiatives and accident debriefing, including the need to particularly focus on runway excursions, as there have been several high-profile incidents in the past two years.

Flight Training Stream

The flight training conference moved quickly into regulatory issues, particularly the new EASA flight crew licensing NPA. The discussion became rather heated with presentations first by EASA, with FTO and TRTO views following. The content of the FCL NPA, the short period for on-line comment by industry (Dec. 15, 2008), and the apparent role of EU politics in the process were all roundly discussed. Notably, the industry has several legitimate concerns, including the proposal to disallow instruction by pilots who do not hold the same level of European license and rating for which they are preparing their students, even if they are licensed as instructors in their home countries and are using the European syllabus and testing regime. CAT issue 5-08, pp. 19-20, provides a synopsis.

A look at pilot supply and demand issues followed, with significant discussion of the Multi-crew Pilots License (MPL). MPL is the ICAO training option that focuses on multi-crew concepts from day one of training, while using simulation for a significant part of the curriculum. Several misconceptions about MPL were dispelled, including the myth that it was designed to be quicker or cheaper than alternative approaches. The session was rounded out with a presentation on the ICAO “Evidence-Based Training” initiative and how it can enhance training and safety, by developing “best industry practises” for flight crew training and checking.

By day two the conference had turned to technology issues, including training on modern turboprop aircraft, which now incorporate avionics and systems essentially indistinguishable from their jet transport brethren. But the importance of effective pilot selection techniques was emphasised. The migration of these advanced avionics even to single engine training aircraft was also explored, along with the rise of the Very Light Jet (VLJ) and the training challenges associated with this class of aircraft. The airspace usage issues of the VLJ were also discussed, particularly in the European context.

At mid-day EASA had returned to cover the NPA on air operations, while a further presentation delved into how the credit crunch is impacting ab-initio, TRTO and airline command training. The financial theme continued with a perspective on how the new EASA requirements will impact the cost of flight training.

The final sessions of the flight training stream focused on training and simulation technologies. The result of the RAeS International Working Group (IWG), which has been updating international FSTD simulator standards, was well received. The results will be incorporated into a revised ICAO document 9625, promising a global standardisation around just seven levels of devices. The session was rounded out with an extensive exploration of the application of educational and instructional principles in crew training, particularly in the desktop and distance learning environments. With the advent of the advanced multi-media classroom, more and more training is capable of being performed using these mediums, providing an enormous opportunity to optimise the mix of training device media. In the current economic environment, training organisations cannot afford to miss these opportunities.

Maintenance Training Stream

The maintenance stream opened with an update on the current demand / supply of maintenance engineers within Europe. Although earlier predictions forecast a significant shortfall, the impact of the economic climate has resulted in reduced demand, at least for the duration of the economic downturn. Older aircraft types are being replaced with new models, which require less maintenance and so the number of new hires is not as great as originally anticipated. One presentation noted that the combination of drawing engineers from other industries and some 900 new apprentices each year is sufficient to answer changing needs in Germany. In Turkey the role of maintenance engineer is generally seen as a good career, so there are plenty of applicants to join a revamped process to transition from vocational schools to the MRO world.

Several speakers offered ideas on how to use new technology and methodology to best effect. Strong cases were made to expand the principle of competency based training across a wider range of maintenance training disciplines to ensure quality and training efficiencies in these tougher economic times.

For some time it has been acknowledged that one of the areas of potential skills shortage is in the role of simulator engineers and technicians. The requirements of this discipline are not presently recognised by either specific skill sets or regulatory qualifications. Most individuals become competent through on-job-training (OJT) as they build experience. Given the ever-increasing reliance on synthetic training devices as the core learning platforms, it is essential that the support maintenance be done effectively. The Flight Simulator Engineer and Technician Association (FSETA) is being formed to give this group a voice, with a view to creating formal qualifications and licensing.


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