- 25 Jul 2023
- Mario Pierobon
- Flight Departments
Keeping flight crews on top of their game takes more than recurrent training, as Andre Fodor highlights. How can Flight Department Managers create an environment of continual learning for their team? Check out these six tips...Back to Articles
With the increased activity in private aviation, Flight Department Managers are challenged to be better at planning. This includes planning for the increased demand on the aircraft’s schedule. Personally, I fastidiously plan months, if not years ahead to make sure our airplanes stay flight ready.
But it’s not only airplane mechanical parts that require the attention and planning of aviation managers. Our people – the pilots, mechanics, flight attendants and dispatchers – are the foundation of a successful operation, and they must stay proficient, focused and engaged to deliver the service, safety and reliability expected by the aircraft owners.
Part of the whole planning process is to identify the right personnel to recruit to your operation in the first place. For example, beyond a candidate’s technical abilities, how much credence do you give to their personality, positivity, energy, motivation, congeniality and natural curiosity to learn? Investing training money in someone who is both type-rated and the ideal personality for your Flight Department is surely money well spent.
When you’re successful in hiring people, you ultimately embed longevity into the workplace. But this also creates challenges. In our team, the newest employee has been with us for seven years.
We have a responsibility to maintain proficiency, uphold a learning environment, and avoid deterioration of skills. According to the proverb, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. There can certainly be a genuine danger of familiarity seeping into procedures and processes when the same people have flown together for a very long time. So how can we as Aviation Managers keep a fresh approach to training?
Annual recurrent training is one component of proficiency. Getting training scheduled is one of my greater stresses, since there is less slot availability and a shortage of instructors at the training facilities.
Plan Earlier than Normal: I recently approached our training provider requesting that they allow me to schedule a recurrent slot two years in advance.
While I understood they would not have specific course dates that far ahead, at least we could be assured a slot in the month it was due. I even offered to pre-pay for the slot, emphasizing that this would look good for the training provider, too. The lesson here is to plan far ahead.
Identify and Emphasize Relevant Scenarios: Every year I also prepare a training course outline with new points of emphasis and identify scenarios for any extra time in the simulator.
Due to runway closures at our home airport, we previously emphasized strong crosswind landings and take-offs with a wet runway component. Trying different auto-brake settings, we sought to understand what was the most suitable, and to learn if it provided additional safety margins during gusty landings.
Use an Online Year-Round Training Provider: Annual recurrent training is only a small part of the broader proficiency and learning process. As Flight Department Managers, we want our teams to learn year-round. To help with this we use an online training provider that assigns coursework for us every quarter. The goal is to match coursework with challenges.
As an example, if we are approaching winter flying season, we want everyone to review their cold weather operations and de-icing processes. If there is a significant change to international procedures, we receive training that refreshes our knowledge and covers the changes.
Ultimately, we try to stay away from repetitive training and focus on information that complements and refreshes our knowledge.
Develop Emergency Procedures and Run Drills: Although we are a Part 91 operation, we have decided that Emergency Procedures (EPs) should be incorporated into our proficiency plan – even though they don’t have to be.
Moreover, we run our EP Drills before every oceanic flight, and at least once every three months. And during these training events we rotate the instructor role, ensuring that each of our crew members takes a turn, giving each person an opportunity to be the teacher and subject matter expert.
Train On Board the Aircraft: Training is conducted inside our aircraft where we can get hands-on with all the safety equipment, conduct First Aid, CPR and safety training, and help to build confidence and mutual trust while providing real-world scenarios with the limitations of being aboard an aircraft, potentially hours away from a suitable emergency airport.
Take Advantage of Empty Legs: Another opportunity to train is when we are flying an empty leg. We encourage our team to use landings and take-offs to improve their proficiency. For example, a take-off without autothrottle engaged can provide a refresher in smooth power management. A raw data ILS, or a partial panel-flown approach are similarly great opportunities to build self- confidence and trust in our skills.
An occasional simulated missed approach or go-around is another good opportunity to experience a manoeuvre that rarely occurs in normal operations.
Ultimately, as a team we enjoy these times of camaraderie and team building, and when possible we try to schedule our survival, CPR, firefighting and survival training together. We have fun, spend social time together and come out stronger as a more cohesive group.
Ultimately, if we learn, we grow. In a Flight Department where each role may not change for a very long time, keeping everyone curious, motivated and proficient is an Aviation Manager’s challenge.
By using every opportunity to enhance your team’s professional skills, developing a tailored personal growth plan for them, you will ensure your Flight Department continues to provide exceptional service.