Managing Flight Training: Tips from a Veteran

Andre Fodor draws from years of experience piloting and managing flight departments of many different shapes and sizes to share tips on managing training within your operation...

Andre Fodor  |  13th October 2021
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    Andre Fodor
    Andre Fodor

    With a focused approach on global excellence and creativity, Andre Fodor has managed flight operations...

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    Private jet flight simulator

    As professional pilots, training is intrinsically a part of our lives. We train for our pilot ratings. We train to be type-rated in an aircraft. We train to stay current, and to learn differences in avionics, or new procedures.

    We complement proficiency with more training, using them as building blocks as we learn about changes in the airspace (such as the Atlantic High Altitude, or coping with NextGen’s airspace upgrades).

    Being type rated in a variety of aircraft, from Light to Large Jets, and from experience gained in management positions held within flight departments of various different shapes and sizes, I believe I have learned a few tricks of the training trade during my career. As I share some of them here, I do so in the hope they may be helpful to other pilots or flight department managers…

    Manage Your Training Nerves

    There is always a measure of nervousness that comes with training. Pilots, by nature, are perfectionists. The desire for perfection can translate into anxiety, which can impair the quality of training.

    A friend with many years of professional experience (he has flown as a Boeing 767 captain, and also as a high-end business jet pilot), still suffers training and ‘check ride’ anxiety. At the pinnacle of his career, he was offered a position at one of the world’s most prestigious airlines, and immediately nerves set in.

    At the time, we had a long discussion about training and outcomes, and it was important to remind him that he had accepted the new position, and training challenge, by choice.

    Reflecting on his many successes, we also discussed the causes for some of his training mishaps in the past. The conversation highlighted that he lacked nothing in professional skills, but that his nerves often depleted his high performance energy.

    I could identify. Many years earlier, I had been required to pass at least two flight checks each year, and I got nervous every time. One day, while walking to the simulator bay with sweaty palms, I reflected that I was going to have to endure training and testing for my entire career, whether I was scared or not.

    It dawned on me that if I could relax, and allow myself to feel self-assured, my chances of success would increase. That day I had the best simulator session I’d ever had, and thereafter, I made sure I took a mental Valium every time I needed to train. It has worked ever since.

    Set aside time to center yourself ahead of training. Focusing on your upcoming success. Do what is needed to feel self-assured, confronting any lingering fears in your mind head-on.

    Correct Your Perception of Training

    The pass/fail standards in pilot training are set by the regulations. Very little is left for the abstract judgment of the assessor, other than to make sure you’re in control of your aircraft.

    In fact, the entire training structure is geared towards success. After all, there is no good business sense in having a high failure rate that would reflect badly on the quality of the training curriculum and instructors.

    There are knowledge gates to warn you if you need and remedial training. And, if you are having trouble with training, be honest and work on a plan with your instructors to help you succeed. They will appreciate your honesty, and reward it with renewed efforts to help you get you to your goal.

    Flight Department Managers: Think Ahead

    From a management viewpoint, my greatest concern is to ensure all training is secured for my team. With high demand being placed in the entire corporate aviation provider network currently, you are likely to experience challenges to secure training slots – especially if you leave it to the last minute.

    My team’s recurrent training happens annually, and my contracts with the training provider for these are signed two years ahead of time, whenever possible. Unfortunately, some providers restrict scheduling to twelve months in advance, which I always find puzzling. 

    Regardless, secure the training for your team at the earliest possible time before it’s due. Then, when the training approaches, verify that your account is fully paid. Don’t let your pilots be denied training because you forgot to approve the invoice payment!

    Make sure you have correctly prepared and sent the Training Course Authorization (TCA) paperwork. I have seen instances where pilots successfully finished their coursework, but had to return to school because it had not been done in accordance with their SOP or OPS-SPEC.

    The TCA gives clear guidance to the instructor (and the checker) of the procedures and maneuvers that should be included in the training curriculum – and this may vary according to the type of operation, or the certifying authority.

    With geopolitics and COVID travel restrictions in mind, verify your crew can travel for training. The training locations may be located in countries requiring visas, medical testing, and – more critically – a security assessment before your crew can enter the facility – especially one with a full-motion simulator.

    Your job is to ensure your pilots have been cleared in advance since there are no exceptions to these types of safety rules.

    And be prepared: With the current high demand for training, it may be necessary to accept a slot at a more distant training facility. (I know of US-based colleagues who now train in Dubai, due to the lack of slots.)

    The takeaway is to be flexible, and think far-enough ahead.

    How to Keep Sharp…

    To help keep proficiency levels sharp, consider developing a complementary training program within your flight department.

    I select several on-line classes annually for each person in my team, and also schedule First Aid and CPR training. We conduct an Emergency Procedure Drill every three months (instead of annually), and we design it to help each team member since the drill-leader is allocated on a rotating order, empowering everyone while building a safety culture of knowledge exchange.

    Ultimately, well trained crews will perform better during high-demand and/or emergency situations when using the same standardized procedures. It makes a great deal of sense to be highly trained, and is an investment with tangible returns. Good training builds a culture of high professionalism and high self-esteem. These are the components of a successful flight department!

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