Is Evidence Based Training a solution looking for a problem?

Evidence Based training (EBT) arose from an industry-wide consensus that in order to reduce the aircraft hull loss and fatal accident rates, a strategic review of recurrent and type-rating training for airline pilots was necessary”. Since these words were written (in ICAO document 9995) the hull loss and fatal accident rates have continued a downward trend and 2017 is generally considered to have been the safest year yet for airline travel.

Is the premise on which EBT was built still valid?

‘Black Swans?’

Document 9995 goes on to say that “complexity and high reliability mean that the next accident may be something completely unexpected”. This may be true but, in fact, many recent accidents have been the results of pilots mis-handling relatively simple events. For example, AF447 on 12 June 2009 (loss of indicated airspeed), EK 521 on 3 August 2016 (baulked landing), FZ981 on 19 March 2016 (go-around). We continue to train for the events that presented a safety risk 50 years ago, such as engine failures on take-off, and it’s just as well because these events continue to happen (BA2276 on 8 September 2015, AA383 on 28 October 2016, HL2708 on 27 May 2016). The fact that these events don’t always make the news may be evidence that the pilot’s are well trained and the system is working

What’s the issue?

Before an airline takes the decision to change pilot training there needs to be a diagnosis of any problems with the existing training programme. A proposed solution must address those problems. Current regulations allow a lot of flexibility so it may be that the necessary changes can be made without adopting a whole new framework such as EBT. Changes should be implemented incrementally and, at every stage, there must be a way to measure whether the changes being implemented are having the intended effect. This means having a consistent assessment methodology throughout the change and having data based on that assessment methodology.

Implementing EBT will be a complex, multi-year project. Each operator’s training programme should be based on the specific needs and risks of that operator (whether EBT or ‘non-EBT’) so there is no ‘off-the-shelf’ EBT solution. Any big change programme has the potential to introduce new risks to an operation and EBT is no different. Although EBT introduces some great training methods any change has the potential to erode safety, as well as to improve it.

The business case for EBT?

At the time of writing it’s possible to implement ‘mixed EBT’ within current European Regulations. Such an EBT programme includes all the current training and checks. EASA guidance includes suggestions for closer integration of  CRM into recurrent training, but there is limited scope for cost saving with mixed EBT.

EASA have published a notice of proposed amendment (NPA 2018-07) with proposed rules for ‘baseline EBT’ for airline recurrent training. A version of these revised rules may come into effect in 2020 or 2021. The NPA proposes some alleviations that will make the business case for EBT more compelling (such as less frequent line checks) but, until a final rule is published, we can’t be sure when or whether these alleviations will be available.

Is EBT right for you?

McKechnie Aviation have provided training and advice about EBT to a number of airlines and training organisations. Before making any commitment to EBT our suggestion is to understand the current guidance and possible future rules (we can provide a one-day seminar). The next step will be to analyse your existing training programmes, see what needs to be improved and then start looking for an optimum solution. EBT may be the optimum solution but so far our clients have decided not to move to EBT just yet.

Can we help?

If you’d like impartial advice and assistance with development of pilot-training programmes then please get in touch. We can help you implement EBT if that’s the best way to go but there may be easier solutions. We’re not going to try and sell you a package of services (IT, training etc.) but we can help you find the right services if that’s what you need.

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