Pilots are subject to rigorous training as testing throughout their careers. Every airline pilot has to demonstrate his/her competence every six months but is the time (and money) spent in training used to the best effect?
The current requirements for training and checking are based on the risks faced by airline pilots 50 years ago. Early generation jet aircraft were physically and mentally demanding to fly. An engine failure might have needed all of a pilot’s strength to keep the aircraft under control with balanced inputs of rudder and aileron. Finding the airport could have meant reliance on a single needle giving a bearing towards a radio beacon, with reliability of the signal depending on atmospheric interference, the time of day and whether the aircraft was in level flight. No wonder engine failures and these ‘non-precision’ approaches had to be practiced regularly. The risks faced in modern aircraft are very different. When accidents do occur the causes are always complex and involve layers of technical, operational and human-factors issues.
‘Evidence Based Training’ (EBT) has been developed to match recurrent pilot training to the real risks of operating sophisticated aircraft in today’s demanding operational environment. The basis for EBT is extensive research into 20 years of flight operations. A data analysis team reviewed flight recorder data from 3 million flights, observation data from 10,000 flight observations and reports from 3,000 accidents and incidents. EBT training programmes will use this data to prioritise training that meets the real needs of the pilots and the airline and so make better use of the training budget. EASA are developing regulations for EBT that will be published using a phased approach over the coming months and years. Implementing EBT isn’t just about changing what we train but also how we train. Instructors will need new skills and there will be opportunities to use different techniques and different devices to deliver better pilot training. Implementation of EBT in an airline should also follow a phased approach, but while implementation will be a multi-year project airlines will see the benefits quickly, not just in better training but also in reduced training costs.