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Training Narratives and Paradoxes

Posted Thu 27th Aug 2015 | Airline

This year's census data shows about 43 more FFS in-service worldwide than in 2014. Image credit: CAE

While the simulation and training sector continues its enormous contribution to the industry’s remarkable safety record, considerable M&A is evident as new technologies continue to emerge - even as the global personnel supply issues show few signs of abatement. Targeting “risk” and specific training issues is increasingly evident, as “Risk-based Decision Making” becomes part of the industry narrative, and the many paradoxes loom large. By Editor in Chief Chris Lehman.

As this issue of the CAT 2015 Sourcebook was being prepared, the IATA Annual General Meeting was concluding in Miami, FL. As he did last year in Doha, Director General Tony Tyler highlighted some critical facts. “Airlines create jobs. We directly employ 2.5 million people. A further 56 million work in the value chain…global standards and systems underpin a worldwide network of some 51,000 routes. And this year 3.5 billion passengers and nearly 55 million tonnes of cargo will travel safely by air.”

The industry association chief went on to talk about financial realities, safety and the direct and intangible benefits of aviation’s role in “global connectivity” for families, friends and international commerce. A great paradox is that the more people rely on flying, the more challenging it is to ensure that aviation’s benefits and needs are actually understood. Inappropriate policy making, regulation and public misunderstanding, have long been the scourge of an industry that despite its many representative associations - or perhaps because of them - still does not have a unified voice.

Safety

Contrary to the views of some, 2014 turned out to be another very safe year for commercial aviation - IATA’s data shows that 2014’s overall (jet transport and turboprop) accident rate was 1.92 accident per million sectors, which is 23% below the 5-year average of 2.48. The graphs show the realities, including the all-important global variations.

 

Without doubt the mass media focus was on MH 370 and MH 17. While both events were agonizing and tragic, the industry understandably declines to take full responsibility for an act of war that results in the destruction of a passenger aircraft. But air carriers have taken a harder look at operational route structures over the world’s many areas of conflict, as part of their risk mitigation strategy. ICAO has moved quickly to develop a 15-minute reporting standard for commercial operations. The global variations in air traffic management systems, and sub-standard technologies in some high traffic international corridors has focussed attention on what might be seen as another paradox - the challenge of operating 21st century aircraft in regions that may have something less than 21st century infrastructure.

The chart “Global Accident Frequency and Survivability” effectively frames the narrative on the current industry safety initiatives. The three top safety initiatives remain Loss-of-Control In-flight (LOC-I), Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) and Runway Excursion (RE). While RE is the most frequently occurring mishap, both CFIT and LOC-I can result in significantly higher casualties than runway occurrences.

Overall runway occurrences encompass runway excursions, runway incursions, hard landings and tail strikes, but the most frequent type is Runway Excursion, representing 22% of all accidents over the past 5 years. As mentioned, survivability is high, and efforts from industry, ICAO, IATA, FAA and EASA have focussed attention on this risk area with considerable progress. A significant number of excursions have historically taken place as a result of unstabilized approaches and even as a result of failure to correctly fly a visual approach (see CAT 3-2015, page 24).

Data from 2014 show five CFIT accidents over the year. Historically, most CFIT accidents occur in approach and landing and often are associated with a lack of, or unavailability of precision approaches. In fact, lack of Instrument Landing Systems (ILSs) and modern approach and satellite-based navigation systems such as those afforded by Performance-based Navigation (PBN), are directly linked with these types of accidents. As a result, industry stake-holders have a significant incentive to accelerate the implementation of PBN and the EATS conference in Warsaw will provide a PBN update.

LOC-I

Over the past 5 years, accidents resulting from a Loss of Control - Inflight (LOC-I) were the leading cause of fatalities in commercial aviation. While the total number of such accidents is low, they are almost always catastrophic as the charts show. There were six such accidents in 2014, and some 9% of all accidents over the period were classified as LOC-I.

This wave of LOC-I accidents over the past 10 years stimulated a flood of activities, from both regulators and industry, and at one point some 18 separate initiatives were underway. Dr. Sunjoo Advani of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s ICATEE committee (http://icatee.org) told CAT that his organisation’s work to develop Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) resulted in the determination that pilots would need the skills of awareness, recognition, avoidance and recovery.

“ICATEE’s task analysis determined that 56% of the training footprint could be covered by knowledge instruction and with better use of today’s Level D/Type 7 simulators, without modification,” said Advani. He went on to say “With specific enhancements to these devices (instructor station feedback, better matching of stall-related buffet and validated post-stall aero modelling), nearly 85% of the training requirements could be achieved. This would cover the recovery portion as well.” Advani noted the most critical factor in LOC-I accidents: dealing with “startle” (see CAT 1-2014, page 18). Classic “Unusual Attitude” training does not consider startle, or indeed, prevention elements.

Last year ICAO published its Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (ICAO 100011) which is derived from the iconic Airbus/Boeing/FSF “Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid (AURTA).” The Manual is referenced in ICAO Annex 1 and 6 and also in PANS-TRG.

In the US, the FAA has issued Part 121-423, AC 120-109 and AC 120-11 on UPRT requirements including post-stall training in simulators with upgraded capabilities. These followed Public Law 111-216 in 2010 which sought to deal with a complete range of pilot training issues and F/O qualifications in the post-Colgan era. The provisions for UPRT training will come into effect in 2019.

In May 2015, EASA issued several regulations on the subject and European operators have until May 2016 to comply. Additional EASA materials on instructor training and the use of aircraft in UPRT at CPL/MPL levels are forthcoming. EASA is currently considering how to include full-stall training in its requirements, but Advani said “…ICATEE learned that it is in fact the un-learning of negative traits, like fighting the controls in the presence of potentially confusing aircraft response near the stall that requires the greatest attention.”

Aluminium Overcast

2014 was yet another stellar year for aircraft orders and deliveries. More than 2,500 aircraft were ordered between Boeing and Airbus, only slightly less than the peak years of 2007 and 2013. And book to build ratios are greater than 2:1, meaning that order backlogs are continuing to grow. Boeing had great success in 2014 with the narrow bodies, booking almost 1,200 gross orders including 891 of the 737 Max, and 302 of the NG family, with the backlog for the MAX aircraft now about 2,600 aircraft, which is an astounding 5 years of production at a rate of 48 aircraft per month.

As this issue of CAT was being prepared, the Paris Air Show had concluded and the numbers were in for the annual Boeing-Airbus sales extravaganza. While some industry executives mulled over the challenges of the last decade’s enormous aircraft backlogs, with a few saying the show felt “muted,” Paris Air Show sales figures totaled 752 orders and commitments between the two manufacturers, representing about $107 billion USD. Over 80% of the Paris sales announcements were narrow bodies, and half the total orders were from Asian carriers.

An enormous final day boost for Airbus was for 110 A321neo jets from Wizz Air (see CAT 3-2015 profile), worth $14 billion. Other highlights included Eva Air deals for both A330 and B777 freighters, while Garuda ordered 30 787-9’s and 30 A350s. Volga-Dnepr will acquire another 20 747-8 Freighters, and Qatar Airways committed to further 777-8Xs and 777 freighters. Lease firms signed for 365 aircraft at Paris, with most of them for narrow bodies. Chinese carrier Ruili Airlines bought 30 737 Max machines, and Korean Air split a large order, buying 30 737 Max’s and 30 A321neos.

There were no major aircraft program announcements at Paris Air Show, but Airbus said it was considering whether to re-engine or slightly stretch its A380, as well as expand its A350-1000 long-haul jet. And Boeing said it had not yet decided whether to invest in a middle-market jet to fill a gap in a potentially attractive part of the market, which includes the replacement of the B757. Bombardier showed off the new CSeries jet - designed to compete with Boeing and Airbus narrow bodies - but no new orders were realised, although the aircraft is performing better than expected. Embraer, a key Bombardier competitor in the turboprop and RJ markets, had a solid show with 50 orders.

Burgeoning Forecasts

As has been routine for the past several years, the major airframers once again have raised their demand forecasts. Just before press time, Boeing raised its 20 year forecast by 1,300 aircraft, and is now projecting a demand for over 38,000 new aircraft. The fleet will double to 43,560 by 2035, from 21,600 in 2014. Significantly, 58% of the forecast will be driven by market growth.

Narrow-bodies dominate, and continue to be the fastest-growing and largest segment, and the fight is between the B737 family and the A320neo. That segment will require 26,730 aircraft over the 20 years, and about 35% of single-aisle aircraft are expected to be acquired by Low Cost Carriers (LCC’s). Randy Tinseth, VP Marketing at Boeing says “Around 30% of single-aisle aircraft today are delivered to LCCs and that will continue to grow in the future.”

The twin-aisle segment will need 8,830 new aircraft, and above 400 seats Boeing and Airbus continue to disagree where the market is going. Boeing assumes only about 540 aircraft will be delivered in the 747-8 and A380 class, while Airbus sees an enormous 1,500 aircraft requirement. Boeing forecasts a shift in demand from very large airplanes to efficient twin-engine machines, such as the 787 and 777X.

S&T Industry

Consolidation and M&A are increasingly evident in the S&T industry, with the competitive picture constantly changing. An industry summary is offered on pages 28-33, but a brief look at some of the main industry parameters helps to frame the narrative.

New simulator capabilities and clean-sheet designs, together with the news of several re-branding exercises was on-going through the year and also highlighted at the WATS conference in April. The former Textron Simulation & Training Systems changed its name to TRU Simulation + Training Inc. Back in 2013 Textron acquired Mechtronix in Montreal and Opinicus in Florida and the new company now has presence in a wide range of market segments, including the operation of a Part 142 training center, in the form of ProFlight of California, which it acquired this last year.

Earlier this year the former Sim-Industries re-branded to Lockheed Martin Commercial Flight Training (LMCFT), and shortly before press time, L-3 Communications acquired CTC Aviation in the UK. Further, we noted at press time that LMCFT claimed that in first half of 2015 it had sold 10 full flight simulators to customers worldwide. These sales include a contract to deliver a B737-NG simulator to Pan Am Thailand Training Center, an Airbus A320 simulator for Frontier Airlines and two A320 full flight simulators through a contract with Airbus.

Given the current industry UPRT emphasis, it is interesting to see the major manufacturers work to respond. CAE stated at WATS that its new Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) module, including instructor station, has been developed for retrofit on existing CAE-built devices and is also part of the new CAE 7000XR Series full flight simulator (FFS). And FlightSafety International noted they had received FAA qualification for the first flight simulator expanded aerodynamic model for Upset Prevention and Recovery Training.

"FlightSafety is pleased to become the first and only training provider and simulator manufacturer to receive FAA qualification for a simulator to be used during Upset Prevention and Recovery Training," said Bruce Whitman, CEO. The simulator is a Gulfstream G550 used in the company’s UPRT programs.

“Competitive” FFS sales continue to be robust, ranging from a recent low of 27 in calendar year 2009, increasing to about 45 in calendar year 2012. CAE in fiscal 2014 claimed 48 machines, and in fiscal 2015 (end March) the company released a figure of 41. A general rule of thumb is that 25 aircraft yields one simulator, so with about 1,300 aircraft delivered last year, this results in a requirement for about 52 devices, and this has been more or less the average over the past half-decade. This years’ census data (page xx) essentially confirms these numbers, and shows about 43 more FFS in-service than in 2014, with multi-year census data indicating an average of 50 more each year over the last 4 years.

CAE released news of contracts with some 30 airlines at the recent Paris Air Show, effectively reminding the industry that simulator sales are correlated to where the bulk of the aircraft deliveries are being realised - Asia Pacific - and also that this company is now a highly diverse training provider, not just a simulator manufacturer. CAE’s Paris announcements included cadet training programs for easyJet, Air China and EVA Air; type-rating solutions for West Atlantic, AeroContractors of Nigeria, Hong Kong Airlines and Braathens; three B737 FFS for Hainan, and an A350 XWB FFS to an undisclosed carrier.

This years’ simulator census has been the beneficiary of a new relationship between CAT and Sim-X, and the result is a more accurate and comprehensive summary of the world’s civil simulator installed base. Sim-X is a constantly updated online database that tracks worldwide simulators to help industry users find and analyse the global inventory, and provides new web-based data entry utilities and tools to search, analyse and eventually even book time on many of the devices. FFS data is the core of the database, but it is well on the way to being expanded into the other device classifications such as FTDs, STDs, FBS, FNPTs, and ground and cabin devices. The utilities allow interesting data summaries and collations. Sim-x.net for more information.

Piloting the Future

Last year CAT reported no sign of a pullback on the continuing high pilot demand forecasts, and issued warnings over the lack of training capacity to address the great volume of aircraft deliveries. We also said that the situation in Asia was particularly acute and that some Asian carriers were beginning to feel the impact due to the region’s lack of domestic training capacity, the quality of delivered training in the midst of extremely rapid expansion, and the resulting inevitable flight cancellations. Some believe this stress has contributed to the recent accident profiles in Asia, and in particular with some of the LCCs. The situation in the US as a result of the First Officer Qualification (FOQ) rule, which came into effect in 2013, was also becoming more apparent, because new FO’s now needed an ATP certificate to be hired in Part 121 operations.

While “structured” training programs offered by major US collegiate aviation schools can apply for some relief on the minimum 1,500 hours prescribed for an ATP certificate, the burden of these additional hours on a student who may only graduate with some 200-300 hours is seen as a further deterrent to pursuing the career. Interestingly, a University of North Dakota (UND) study showed that there may be another paradox unfolding. Candidates hired by some regional carriers after the rule-making went into effect, had the hours, but required more training and were less likely to complete the training than those hired before the rule-making. Indeed, Regional Airline Association (RAA) president Faye Black testified before Congressional events on April 28: “… time spent in unstructured flight is diminishing the quality of applicants available to airlines, and new career uncertainty is driving some of the best and brightest new pilots away from the profession … airlines have needed to screen far more applicants just to find pilots who met their own internal criteria”, she said. And the RAA pointed to the fact that over 100 smaller communities in the US served by their member airlines saw about a 10% reduction in service as a direct result of crew shortages.

A growing call to look at both defined career path training models and competency-based training models as opposed to prescriptive is music to the ears of those who advocate for the Multi-crew Pilot License (MPL), and certainly there have been some encouraging results in Europe and Asia. But MPL does not solve the enduring funding issue - it requires airline sponsorship - and to date there’s a little over 1,000 world-wide graduates. However, many European LCC’s are embracing - and funding - MPL programmes as well as developing defined career pathways, as compared to legacy carriers in the region. Rickard Wikander and Dr. Nicklas Dahlström from Lund University are conducting a global survey on the experience with MPL - https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/lusamplsurvey - with the results delivered at the EATS conference in Warsaw, November 3-4, 2015. MPL stakeholders are encouraged to participate.

In Asia and the Middle East, the situations are unique. With little ab-initio training capacity in Asia, the region depends on ATOs in the US and Australia, and there is concern that as the US industry expands and it’s airlines re-fleet , there will be pressure on its internal capacity to satisfy its own needs, putting Asian airlines into additional difficulty. In the Middle East, the biggest airlines such as Etihad and Qatar have moved decisively to secure multiple channels of pilot supply via MPL programs - Qatar Airways for example has long-term MPL programmes with STAA in Singapore, their own Qatar Aeronautical College, and with CTC in the UK (see Qatar Airways profile page 14).

While the situation in the US receives the most press, it’s more than clear that the pilot supply issue is a world-wide concern, with each region posing unique local challenges. Providing defined career paths, funding training, and marketing the career aggressively to youth, is critical. Many of the industry alphabet groups have their own initiatives for the latter, but national strategies so far have proved elusive. But for an industry so essential for national and international economic progress, cancelling flights cannot be the method to match crew demand with supply.

Adaptive and Performance-based

At CAT Magazine’s WATS conference this last year, the theme was “Targeted Training Interventions and Aviation Safety”, and the conference explored the incredible progress being made with proactive safety programs, including the adoption of Safety Management Systems (SMS). In the US, all Part 121 carriers must now have an approved and implemented SMS and the rule came into effect on March 9, 2015. In Europe, the requirements are laid down in EASA OPS, which became applicable on April 8, 2012.

WATS keynote speaker Michael Whitaker, Deputy FAA Administrator, picked up on the “proactive” safety theme by explaining the evolving regulatory approach to managing system risk, called risk-based decision making. It’s a data-intensive approach, using many of the existing mechanisms already in place to collect operational and training data. The information will be used to help guide and target future rule-making and to eliminate outdated guidance and regulations.

Whitaker went on to talk about the Air Carrier Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ACT ARC), which seeks out the views of industry stakeholders to develop initiatives to improve all manner of air carrier training. The FAA is actively working with industry and looking at alternative pathways to obtaining the ATP certificate, such that more candidates may be able to meet the standard with fewer than 1,500 hours. “We (also) saw that the current rules for simulators require that pilots be trained and evaluated up to the stall warning, but not up to the full stall. So we’re proposing improvements to simulator models so they can be used to train pilots to recover from a full stall,” said Whitaker.

As previously mentioned, several vendors are now building simulators with enhanced aero models and UPRT capabilities to address these requirements, but advances in all manner of instructional technology is unfolding, enabling levels of training transfer and training ROI unheard of compared to just a few years ago. “Adaptive Learning” is increasingly becoming part of the elearning narrative for all manner of air carrier training - from pilot and maintenance, to cabin and station training.

Adaptive Learning technology incorporates several existing technologies into one application to provide a learning experience where the transfer of knowledge rate is based on the individual student’s footprint in terms of their current aptitude, knowledge, skill level, and ability, thus optimising the training process. Adaptive Learning technology incorporates technology currently used to make feature films including high definition video, 3D modeling, and high end animation. The technology also utilizes elements of Gaming Theory, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Interactive Learning. The technologies are currently used in the medical field as well as in the academic world, but when combined with AQP in the airline context, it offers enormous potential, and can even alter the personnel recruitment dynamic. CAT will explore the technologies further at its EATS conference in Warsaw in November, as well as editorially over the next year.

 Published in CAT Magazine issue 4/2015


Authored by Fiona Greenyer
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