Returning to Singapore for the first time since 2012, APATS this year greatly exceeded expectations in numbers and activities. Chris Long reports with contributions from Fiona Greenyer and Olivia Nash.
In his opening remarks, Mr Tay Tiang Guan, Deputy Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, commented that “the (conference) theme on building safety culture through sharing of best practice in airline training is timely. Aviation training, more specifically airline training, is a key pillar of the aviation industry, especially in a high growth and dynamic environment in the Asia-Pacific region”. Mr Tay went on to highlight the role of the regulators in maintaining responsible and strong safety oversight and Safety Management Systems. The good news is that Competency Based Training and new technology are both becoming more accepted as a means of improving training standards, nowhere more evident than in the proper application of the Multi Crew Pilot training packages.
In his keynote speech Captain Quay Chew Eng, Acting Senior Vice President of Flight Operations, Singapore Airlines echoed that view, and went on to expand on the issues which are in front of all operators, both in the region and worldwide. Quay emphasised the need for cooperation; “safety is everybody’s business. From aircraft manufacturers to MRO providers, the Regulators and flight training organisations, we all have a collective stake in ‘building a safety culture’ for ourselves and for our customers.” He went on to say “In a similar context, with the rapid expansion of aviation in the region, we must ensure that all our training programs are robust, especially in the training of ab-initio pilots. Pilot training must be standardised across borders, as across the board similar practices promote safer skies. We all have a moral obligation to the travelling public that no lives will be lost due to poor pilot training. Here, we should emphasise that any incident/accident is the entire industry’s incident/accident. Without exceptions, all learning points and actions taken to prevent further occurrence must be shared across operators. Simply put, there is no competition when it comes to safety.”
As ever the Pilot Stream was rich with information, and the scope of the conference covered the evolution of the training tasks themselves. The debate on what needs to be trained and how was carried through several sessions - with aspects which covered both Evidence Based Training (EBT) and Competency Based Training (CBT). Great attention was paid to the presentations which delved into Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT), both from a perspective of defining the problem, to packages which can provide a training solution. Training and maintaining the essential skill of confident manual flying also had considerable emphasis, as did the appropriate use of new technology.
A parallel preoccupation was on the characteristics present in the new generation of pilots. What are the best criterion and methods of selection? How do you make training technology and patterns relevant both for the student and the operational tasks? The influence that culture has in its broadest sense, embracing as it does issues of generational, national and company inputs, has to be taken into account to shape effective training and operation.
There were specific examples of new training patterns. For instance, there was a presentation on the new training plan devised by Boeing for the 737 Max, which showed a significant evolution. Classic CBT - a solo activity - is no longer suitable for the new tasks. Pilots will train as a crew member from day one on interactive platforms, thus creating part of the process to match the new training to the new pilots. An original approach to ab initio pilot training was illustrated in a briefing on the Etihad pattern for MPL, which includes the use of the Embraer Phenom aircraft as a training tool, thus expanding the flight envelope to more closely represent the performance of their first type - the A320.
There were discussions on new technology, from new electric motion platforms to improved visuals for simulators and the training in the practical application of Head Up Displays to aid demanding RNP approaches.
Cabin Crew Conference Sessions
Two dedicated cabin crew sessions were included in the conference programme this year. The first cabin crew speaker was Aye Aye Naing, Head of Flight Service at Myanmar National Airlines. Her presentation was titled ‘Cabin Safety Training in a Developing Nation’. The presentation outlined the new challenges her airline is facing having increased their fleet by 60%. Arianna Hoffmann, Research Analyst and Pilot Selection Specialist from Human Capital Management and Performance followed and outlined the importance of hiring the right people and various strategies for ‘Selecting the Right Staff’. The final speaker in this session was David Lomax, manager of Ground Training at Cathay Pacific Airways. He gave a detailed demonstration of his airline’s bespoke Virtual Aircraft Training System. Developed in-house, it is designed to be realistic, cost effective and accessible to all. The airline has found that producing it in-house has resulted in it being significantly cheaper than any other CGI-type product available, and also means that it’s updateable and completely flexible to meet the demands of the airline.
The second cabin crew session was opened by Keith Calvert, Director at Human Factors Training Solutions. This presentation focused on ‘Non-Technical Skills Development’ and explained that a training program should contain strategies that you can actually do. It went on to give examples of strategies to help improve decision-making skills. Cherie Ann Khalil and Hew Sek Moy, Senior Aviation Safety Inspectors from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore gave an overview of cabin crew competency-based training. They included an overview of ICAO’s cabin crew competency framework, transitioning from traditional to competency-based training and the benefits and challenges in developing competency-based training.
The final cabin crew speaker was Trevor Jensen, principal at AA Nova. ‘Own Goals’ in cabin safety was the theme of his presentation and looked at various issues that could potentially have a negative impact on cabin safety, such as cabin bags, seat pitch, safety briefings and turbulence. He concluded by saying that an increased focus on cabin operations is needed, and airline management should place greater emphasis on cabin crew and their importance in the overall safety picture.
Heads of Training Meeting
An innovation at this year’s APATS was the Heads of Training meeting, held on the evening before the main event. Modelled on the pattern of similar initiatives at the other Halldale symposia, this creates a select forum for those who hold the post of Head of Training in which to share and discuss in a confidential arena the issues and challenges of their role.
Unsurprisingly the ideas put forward tied very closely to those identified the next day in the keynote speeches, and there was some surprise, coupled with relief, that others in the identical role actually shared the same concerns and opinions. The common themes of responding to the pilot shortages and the constraints of tight budgets when answering that challenge were addressed. It was recognised that the new entrants were at least as talented and enthusiastic as earlier generations, but had a different range of skills and approaches which should drive relevant instructional and technological solutions.
A major issue was the difficulty of having to match regulatory imperatives that differed from country to country in the region. It was suggested that some type of forum should be created to explore how such regulations could be unified across the region - maybe CAT magazine/Halldale could be instrumental in helping such an initiative?
Student Education and Careers in Aviation (SECA)
In the past students have been invited to attend the Halldale conferences, and this APATS was no exception. This time Embry Riddle Aeronautical University hosted about 80 students in an activity which showcased several issues involving the choice of a career in aviation.
To set the scene, the topic of “What an Airline Wants” explored the range of disciplines and skills on which the aviation industry depends. If the future option of a single pilot operating in a new cockpit design becomes reality, then the teamwork which binds the aviation tasks becomes even more critical. The embedded safety culture, which encourages the admission and learning from one's own mistakes, is also something which may surprise new entrants and which needs to be emphasised.
The subject of increasing the number of Women in Aviation was also addressed, but the prevailing feeling was that it was more important to have the relevant competencies for a pilot, rather than placement being due to any gender bias. The need for, and encouragement of, an entrepreneurial attitude in aviation was stressed to encourage innovation and expansion.
The afternoon session was dedicated to round table discussions, in part triggered by case studies. The collective conclusions were that early education and awareness of the career opportunities were important, and that easier transition between disciplines might help with shortages and encourage the broad range of aviation career options. For instance, the pathway to becoming a pilot might be through initial qualification as a cabin attendant, thus generating a better understanding of the pilot tasks before risking the necessary investment of time and money. By a similar token, those who discover that being a pilot is not really for them might be able to smoothly change to another role within aviation, but with a more robust understanding of what that would entail.
The addition of innovative activities this year, together with the continued tracking of a wide range of new developments in the training arena, grew the event yet again year on year. With over 50 airlines, together with the invited students, the total attendance peaked at over 660 - an encouraging trend, and one which reflects the burgeoning growth in aviation and the training demands to support it. APATS 2016 was a true Success in Singapore!