The Seventh International Flight Crew Training Conference saw the Royal Aeronautical Society take centre stage in global efforts to update pilot training. TIM ROBINSON reports. [caption id="attachment_7388" align="alignnone" width="386" caption="Commercial flight training is undergoing a transformation. (Lufthansa)."][/caption] Last week saw the Royal Aeronautical Society host the Seventh Annual International Flight Crew Training Conference on 26/27 September in London. This has now developed into a must-attend event for those involved in commercial flight training, from airlines to regulators, to flying schools. This year saw over 120 delegates from 19 nations, with Latvia and Gambia being represented for the first time. With high-level representation from pilot training stakeholders, it is no wonder, then, that RAeS President Phil Boyle describes it as the “Single most important flight training conference in the world.” Subtitled ‘Flight Crew Training – changing the paradigm’ the conference covered a number of themes and topics, from cockpit automation, to mutual recognition of training courses, to whether there will be a pilot training shortage.    Linking these together has been recognition from the industry that airline pilot training is in desperate need of an update and refresh. Learning and assessment techniques since old style ‘box-ticking’ pass or fail scores were the norm have evolved. Additionally, the reliability of modern airliners means that some situations that are given priority in simulator training checks (e.g. engine out on V1 rotate) are extremely unlikely to occur. Is this valuable training time being used efficiently?   Meanwhile, the ‘new paradigm’ is that manual handling skills are stressed, as the consensus has emerged that it has been neglected in recent years. Recent accidents such as Colgan Air and AF447 have highlighted deficiencies in this area, and much work is ongoing on related loss-of-control incidents (LOC-I) and the ‘startle’ factor. The automation of modern airliners, with glass cockpits and with the pilot increasingly as a ‘systems manager’ itself presents new challenges. Part of this new paradigm will be to instil a ‘back to basics’ approach into pilots – to remind them at all times the aircraft, however computerised, still obeys the same principles of flight as did the Wright Flyer in 1903. Finally the insatiable global demand for pilots means that somehow the whole aerospace community must adapt to and incorporate these factors – while at the same time maintaining the commercial aviation’s high standards of safety.     [caption id="attachment_7397" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="The conference also saw Captain Dieter Harms (right) 'the father of the MPL' awarded his RAeS Fellowship by President Phil Boyle (left)."][/caption] However, while there has been a number of initiatives and projects among stakeholders to address these issues and work towards crafting high quality 21st century training appropriate for today’s (and tomorrow’s) airliners until now these have been ‘stovepiped’ with different organisations each forging their own (but similar path). IATA, for example, has its ITQI (IATA Training and Qualification Initiative), ICAO has its NGAP (Next Generation of Aviation Professionals). Additionally, there are the new MPL (Multi-Crew Pilot Licence) and evidence-based training (EBT). How do all these fit together?    Bringing these different strands of new flight training paradigms together at a high level, represented a key opportunity that had been identified by the work of previous RAeS Flight Crew Training Conferences since 2005.  

RAeS gets leading role

[caption id="attachment_7389" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="RAeS President Phil Boyle signs the IPTC Letter of Understanding, 26 September 2012."][/caption] This year’s conference was particularly significant in that it saw the creation of a new body, the International Pilot Training Consortium  (IPTC), with a  letter of understanding signed at the event by RAeS President Phil Boyle. The IPTC has been established by the airline body International Air Transport Association (IATA), global aviation body International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), pilot unions group the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and the RAeS. The IPTC mission statement: “The objective of the International Pilot Training Consortium is to improve safety, quality and efficiency of commercial aviation by developing international agreement on a common set of pilot training, instruction and evaluation standards and processes for the benefit of the industry worldwide and that will result in ICAO provisions.” The Steering Committee of the IPTC is to co-ordinate the work and will be co-chaired on a non-rotating basis by the Royal Aeronautical Society.     In essence, the IPTC will aim to harness these divergent solutions to shared challenges, so that duplication of effort is avoided and that all can work together towards common, global standards for this new flight crew training paradigm.  

Why the RAeS?

[caption id="attachment_7391" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Q&A Panel session at the conference."][/caption] So why, when IATA, ICAO and IFALPA are larger organisations has the RAeS been chosen to co-chair this ‘game-changing’ international initiative? First it is because it is impartial and does not therefore represent or exist to lobby the views of any manufacturer, country, or regulator. Second, although its HQ staff is small, it can draw on the resources of some 17,000+ members worldwide, from cadets embarking on a flying career, to heads of industry and those who are retired but still have useful experience and knowledge to share. Finally the RAeS also benefits from its multidisciplinary membership, ranging not only from pilots and engineers but also lawyers and aviation medicine specialists.    The trust in which IATA, ICAO and IFALPA have placed in a learned, neutral professional body such as the RAeS also stems from the Society’s previous record in contributing to global aviation standards in recent years. For example, the RAeS began work in 1989 on standardisation criteria for flight simulation training devices (FSTD) which was adopted by ICAO in Doc 9625. The RAeS Flight Simulation Group is now following this up with work on a global standard for helicopter FSTDs. The Society has also been active in reacting to the latest aviation safety concerns – such as loss-of control incidents LOC-I, and its International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE) has been a key focus in developing guidelines and suggestions to present to ICAO, airlines and training providers.      

Summary

[caption id="attachment_7390" align="alignnone" width="403" caption="Aligning next-generation pilot training will prepare pilots for future flight decks."][/caption] Many aviation industry conferences boast that they further the debate in their specific area or topic. A fair proportion of these, however, lose the way, or become talking shops or social gatherings with little practical output or function. However, the RAeS’s Annual Flight Training Conference is not among them. It has now given birth to a new body that will potentially have an extremely significant effect on how the next generation of pilots will be trained. Watch this space.  

Get involved

Want to get involved in setting the standards for future airline pilot training? The websites and conferences hosted by the four IPTC partner organisations will be used to report progress and further developments. To view the IPTC Open Access website, please email conference@aerosociety.com with your name, affiliation and contact details to request a username and password. Conference proceedings are also available.  Contact the RAeS Conference & Events Team on +44 (0)20 7670 4345 or email conference@aerosociety.com

Tim Robinson
2 October 2012