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WATS 2014 Opens to Biggest Crowd Ever

Posted on Wednesday 2nd April 2014 | Airline

WATS Day 1, Keynote Address

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta – Safety is Priority 1

In today's keynote address, Michael Huerta, the FAA's Administrator, reiterated that his agency's number one priority remains increasing the safety of the US air system.

Huerta noted the emerging development of commercial unmanned air systems (UASs) and commercial space missions offer tremendous opportunities for the US economy’s growth and development. At the same time he noted the challenges to integrate these vehicles into the national airspace system. 

The administration aviation official provided updates on a number of other issues impacting our sector’s training community. 

The FAA is helping to advance training to assist aircrews avoid and, if necessary, recover from the full-stall regime. An important component of this strategy is the agency’s collaboration with industry to establish guidelines to qualify a simulator for the full-stall maneuvers. “We must address these issues together,” he emphasized.

Huerta also pointed out this past January there were significant revisions to flight duty and rest guidelines. 

The agency head addressed a topic that should resonate well with the international delegates at this WATS. He observed that many training issues in the US airline industry are “global issues that require international harmonization.” 

The FAA continues to publish advisory circulars on training. In particular, is the FAA Notice document that outlines the Airline Transport Pilot rule changes that became effective on July 10, 2013. The new rules will be implemented this August. 

Huerta cautioned that any changes impacting the supply of US aircrews can’t lose sight that aviation “must remain the safest mode of transportation.” 

Christopher Hart, US National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman – Future US Commercial Aircrews

The source of future US commercial aircrews was one topic on the mind of the Honorable Christopher Hart, the Vice Chairman at the US National Transportation Safety Board. 

Hart noted that pilots with military background tend to enter the civil aviation sector with proven degrees of judgement and professionalism. The official noted that as more prospective pilots without military service enter the community, training programs must be adjusted to develop and enhance their judgement and professionalism. 

The administration official also called for an increase of standards in the maintenance training community. While he noted that simulators “are not regulated, they are increasing in numbers.” 

Under the very broad topic of human factors awareness, Hart asserted that human error is 100 percent of the cause of an incident. “That is why training is critical. Especially for more complex systems, we need to improve the linkage to training.” 

Hart, much like Huerta, challenged the delegates to use the next two days of WATS to expand their dialogue in these areas of interest. 

WATS Pilot Session 2 – Plenary

Industry Macro View

Captain Jacques Drappier, the Senior Training Advisor at Airbus, addressed the intriguing issue of culture in training. The industry veteran noted the reality of increased diversity in workforces and other dynamics in our community. 

Drappier pointed out that there are obstacles in the learning process, the most prominent of which is language. 

While diverse organizations and their workforces all strive for safety, the industry subject matter expert warned the delegates “there are different ways to get there.” He continued, “We need to accept and understand cultural differences. We can use training to change positively our professionalism and organizational culture.” 

The question “How good is our training?” has many responses, Scott Nutter, Delta’s General Manager for Research, AQP & Development, told the delegates. Responses are built upon different levels of evaluation, including reaction, learning, behavior (on the job training), results and techniques of evaluation. 

Indeed, Nutter suggested there are different responses suited for a query from a chief financial officer, the FAA, or even an internal airline training official. 

The community subject matter expert briefly discussed return on investment (ROI) as yet another variable used to develop a response to the question.

Heidi Giles MacFarlane, a Vice President at MedAire, and Paulo Alves, the Global Medical Director for Aviation Health at MedAire, delivered a thought provoking overview of the importance of training in managing in-flight medical events (IFMEs). 

The healthcare professionals placed the issue of IFME management in perspective, when they described the costs versus the risks of responding to these events - which are frequently and literally a matter of life and death. 

Responding to and managing an IFME is part of the crew resource management process involving the flight deck and cabin attendants, they asserted. 

The presentation team asked delegates to consider whether they are providing the best CRM training for these events. In particular, they pointed to the need to evaluate whether their training programs provide for: enhanced communications; flight attendants being able to manage the situation; the inclusion of ground based medical personnel as part of the CRM; and whether information can be provided to onboard medical vounteers. 

WATS Pilot – Session 3:  Global Pilot Supply and Primary Training Standards

Shortage? We don’t know

Although the pilot supply pipeline is changing – fewer students completing collegiate pilot training, fewer military pilots available, and large numbers of mandatory retirements – there is “no certainty that a pilot shortage exists” in the United States. That’s the inconclusive summary of a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the supply and demand for airline pilots. Vashun Cole, GAO Senior Policy Analyst, provided an overview of the study’s methodology and findings in Session 3 of the WATS world airline pilot and regional airline pilot tracks.

The GAO examined available data for labor market conditions, educational completion rates, military airmen, and FAA pilot certificates for the period between 2000-2012. The data showed a mixed story. A low unemployment rate among US pilots (2.7%), for example, suggests a shortage. A wage decrease of 9.5% across the 13 years is “not consistent with a shortage,” said Cole. However, that timespan included a severe recession, airline mergers, and bankruptcies which dampened pilot bargaining leverage. The rate of pilot employment declined 12%.

“No single measure can be definitive that a shortage exists,” Cole commented.

Mainline carriers, regional airlines, pilot training schools, and industry associations were also interviewed for the study, and one concern that emerged was that the quality of the flight experience of qualified pilots “is really going down.” Cole said regional airlines are now interviewing candidates that “several years ago would not even be called in for an interview.”

The GAO study outlined some actions which could be taken by industry to help alleviate a pilot shortage (if the shortage materializes), such as increased wages, signing bonuses, and tuition reimbursement. The GAO also said the government could consider changing financial assistance to students and consider alternate pathways to obtaining quality flight experience.

For more on the aviation career outlook, see “Windscreen of Opportunity,” beginning on Page 26 in the WATS issue of CAT magazine. 

Busting MPL Myths

Anthony Petterford, Executive Director of CTC Aviation used his time at the podium to bust three myths regarding the effectiveness and viability of the Multi-Crew Pilots License (MPL), a training methodology that emphasis quality over quantity (hours flown).

Myth One: Petterford took exception to the view that if MPL fails as a standard for training professional pilots, the trainees will not be able to use this training. Not true, said Petterford. Trainees will be offered bridge programs that allow them to take a traditional pathway to becoming a professional pilot.

Myth Two: Pilots that obtain a restricted Air Transport Pilot (ATP) rating through MPL training will not be able to become Captain. Petterford said candidates that complete an MPL led ATP program may go on to become Captain.

Myth Three: Candidates that complete an MPL through one airline cannot transition to another airline. Petterford said candidates are free to transition to another airline provided they complete and pass all testing under the MPL program.

To attract the best and brightest, trainers need to better evaluate candidates: “You don’t take anyone off the street unless their skills have been assessed in the first place.”

Petterford said training houses should sensitive themselves to the cost of obtaining an MPL, around 120,000 Euros/$166,000 USD. Should a candidate fail to achieve an MPL, trainers should consider returning the tuition to the candidate.

“We need to do our part,” he said.

In addition, the training industry needs to attract more women pilots to the pilot profession. But the lobbying effort needs to begin when the women are young because they design career choices at an earlier age.

On FAA’s reluctance to embrace MPL, Petterford said that is changing. FAA will adopt the use of MPL methodologies eventually, but they won’t call it MPL. “Politically, it is not feasible in the U.S.” 

Keeping Up With ‘Digital Natives’

“You grew up with books; I read from a laptop. I use a keyboard more than a pen. I want to learn online. (And I don’t want crushing debt.) Your challenge is to keep up with me.”

That’s the message from the new generation of ‘digital natives,’ and Dr. Janeen Kochan, President, Aviation Research, Training and Services, says research results – both in general terms of how people learn and specific terms for aviation learning – “need to be translated to the operational world.”

Dr. Kochan pointed out that, compared to her generation of pilots, people have changed, technology has changed, and culture has changed, but “training and evaluations have not changed … enough.”

In her presentation during Session 3 of the WATS world airline pilot and regional airline pilot tracks, Dr. Kochan describe characteristics of the “expert pilot.” These include attentional control, risk management, dynamic problem-solving, and aviation experiences. Valid measures of aviation experience include the numbers and types of aircraft flown, as well as recent, relevant, and meaningful experiences, but “never the number of flight hours.”

A fifth element of the expert pilot is “metacognition skills,” a two-part concept which involves thinking about what you are thinking about and the ability to evaluate your own performance.

Touching on multi-crew pilot license (MPL) programs, Dr. Kochan said, “The ones that are done properly are great.” However, she described some programs as “extremely scary,” and said they “need to be looked at” in the context of cognitive skills and human factors skills.

She also said the issue of loss of control inflight (LOC-I) is “a prime example in which lots of research has not yet been applied to the real world.”

Cabin Crew Conference – Session 3

Lessons Learned in Cabin Training

The first session for cabin crew focused on ‘Lessons Learned in Cabin Training’. First on, Thomas Kaminski, Manager, College of Inflight, JetBlue University talked about the observations, challenges, and benefits to using threat and error management in evaluation of individual flight attendant performance following the implementation of a Threat and Error Management (TEM) program. Debbie Schmith and Rene’ Moericke from Southwest Airlines presented an interactive session about team teaching and the necessity to create a standard for teaching and the need to give instructions for consistency amongst the instructors. The final speaker in this session, Stephen Howell, Director – Flight Service Training & Professional Development at American Airlines spoke about ‘The Learning Organization of Tomorrow’, the evolution of a learning organization, and the various factors to consider during a merger between two airlines. 

Cabin Crew Conference – Session 4

Evolving Concepts in Cabin Training

The team from Norwegian Air Shuttle and Virtual eTraining presented the virtual training that the airline is now using to train their cabin crew. This learning system has been integrated with the airline’s crew management system and is saving both time and money. Michaela Green and Tammy Hoevel from GoJet Airlines looked at managing change, styles, generations and their influence on training program integrity. The airline training department has faced a challenge to get consistent training amongst the different ages of training instructor. The final speaker of the day was Ivan Noël, president of Inflight Innovations, who spoke about licensing cabin crew, and how the industry is implementing and benefiting from cabin crew licensing, both in Europe and elsewhere. 

Maintenance Session 3

Matching Training to Customer Cultures

Under the able leadership of Dr. Bill Johnson, the maintenance track kicked off with a presentation by Michael Kalbow, head of maintenance training for Airbus. Kalbow addressed the issues involved in promoting and sustaining a safety culture throughout the maintenance community. The basic key was to integrate and cultivate a safety culture during maintainer training. 

Airbus has found that a key enabler of both a safety culture and on job performance is the implementation of ACT – Airbus Competency Training. And he also pointed out that this safety culture could be exported through training partnerships. Kalbow took care to outline the process by which an effective partnership was established with training agencies. The process starts with an assessment and the development of an action plan, then the deployment of the training media and process standardization, delivery of the training and ongoing evaluation. 

Kalbow closed by noted specifically that maintenance training was a key contributor to growing a safety culture, and that partnerships are suitable to spread the Airbus approach, but modified it by noting that all would be for naught without top management commitiment. 

Changing the approach to establishing safety culture, Maggie Ma, of Boeing spoke to developing safety culture in the Boeing client base. Fundamentally implementing SMS leads to a safety culture, and vice versa. The key of course is that safety culture must be organization wide, and a key element of a safety culture is voluntary reporting. Ma considered this so important that she discussed a major impediment to voluntary reporting and that is the misuse of punishment and the impact of misapplied discipline. 

However, she did cover some of the more important elements to consider when establishing a safety culture. These are setting expectations, obtaining commitment from both employees and management, ensuring that compliance actually happens, and enforcing compliance in a fair and just manner.

This session closed with a review of a GAO report that smashed some current myths that there are shortages of technical personnel. Melissa Swearingen, a GEO senior analyst, reported on a GAO study completed recently. The conclusions of the study were that indicators of shortages one would expect to see were absent- unemployment low, employment steady, and wages steady – and the overall analysis did not support the idea of shortages.

Even though employers cited challenges, few reported raising wages, improving benefits, or offering bonuses to attract new employees. Interviews seemed to point to the challenge of filling positions as being one of specific skills, rather than numbers. 

Maintenance – Session 4 

Trade Associations and Training for Safety Culture

Associations form the backbone of communications both within the industry and between the aviation industry and the regulators. This last session heard from representatives of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA), Airlines for America (A4A), Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) and the Aircraft Electronics Association (AES). 

Marshall S Fuller, ARSA, spoke to the complexities of the regulatory environment and the how ARSA helps its members navigate that environment. While communicating with the regulator is part of the ARSA mandate, he also sees a critical task as training in the regulations. A compare and contrast exercise of regulations applicable to differing professional groups and organisations was used to illustrate the complexity of the challenge. He noted much of their training is for technical people who, he states, “are required to practice law without a license”. He closed his presentation with the aphorism “Safety is a business and regulatory imperative”. 

A4A – formerly known as the Air Transport Association- represents American airlines. Mark Lopez described the overall role of A4A as one of communication with external stakeholders, and or promoting common programs. He outlined initiatives such as M-LOSA, MSC, CAST and the Aviation Training Network and linked them into the development and maintenance of a safety culture. 

ATAC is placing a large emphasis on supporting the implementation of SMS within their members. Their SMS toolkit forms a key component of this activity and the role of the toolkit in the implementation of SMS was explored in enough detail to explain the goals and challenges. 

The AES has 1300 members in 42 countries; 95% are small business, and 80% of those have fewer than 10 employees. Ric Peri explained the challenges and the need to move beyond an organizational approach to an industry cultural approach. They approach the challenge training seminars, on line training and an industry wide SMS program managed by AES.


The best way to be fully informed about airline simulation and training is with CAT - Civil Aviation Training Magazine. 

CAT is published 6 times per year as a printed magazine and in an online version. If you don't receive CAT magazine you can order a subscription to the printed magazine here. To set up a free subscription to the online version, please click here.


Authored by Ms. Lori Ponoroff
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