Line operator proficiency is one of the main strategies implemented for the purpose of assuring aviation safety. Yet proficiency can only be achieved by means of thoughtful initial and recurrent training, warns Mario Pierobon.
Such is the eminence of training in aviation that curricula are thoroughly structured and regulated. Commercial air carriers are required by law to have a specific professional within the organization assuming overall responsibility for managing training. In larger organizations, often the head of training’s only task is that of overseeing the training programs within that company.
In non-commercial Business Aviation, operators of business jets and larger turboprop aircraft must take systematic recurrent training, often from a service provider that employs ground-based simulators. Whether operating for hire or supporting a company’s private business, flight departments have a responsibility as well as a legal obligation to provide effective crew training.
Social scientists studying the economics of education have produced evidence supporting the financial justification for investing in training. Investing in education indefinitely, however, does not make sense, because at a certain stage a ‘break-even’ point is reached. So, how do you reach equilibrium and get the most out of training?
Complacency and Frequency
First, safeguard against becoming complacent about training. You need to believe in the value of training to your flight department, and not just manage training as though you were performing a bureaucratic exercise (we discussed the dangers of box-ticking in our April safety feature).
The frequency of recurrent training modules varies depending on the applicable regulations and on the subject matter.
As a general rule of thumb, effectiveness can be maximized by optimizing the training frequency of individuals in the hierarchical structure.
This is the experience of NetJets, which, according to spokesperson Christine Herbert, “has a very robust program and trains every six months.”
She outlines, “If flight department managers train more frequently, they are able to enhance and expand the type of training offered. In other words, while safety and compliance are always core to these programs, more frequent training offers the ability to put forward a greater effort toward customer service and meeting the needs of those who fly with us.
“Managers are also able to adjust training around things that are happening in real time. It is equally important that the training be thorough and based on data-driven metrics,” Herbert concludes.
While training towards an organization’s long-term performance is often a focus, short-term training commitments can easily be overlooked because the time taken to train can be perceived as detracting from otherwise productive duties of a flight crew (e.g. flying hours). In this instance, the challenge of the training manager centers on scheduling recurrent training modules to ensure that unproductive time for flight crews is kept to a minimum.
With this regard Herbert notes, “It’s important to put models and systems in place to allow training to be a continuous process."
“Whether it’s communication of a new rule, a bulletin coming from the FAA, or a new maintenance requirement, managers can communicate real-time information, thus enhancing training efforts," she adds. "They can also focus crewmembers by using e-learning, separating non-aircraft-specific training, and aircraft-specific simulator training”.
Selection of Training Contents
Another important strategy to maximize training effectiveness is to have the operator’s personnel involved in the definition of training contents, both for internally and externally delivered training modules. The organization should commit effort to ensure that certain areas be addressed or emphasized by training providers in accordance with the operator’s specific needs, and not simply accept whatever curriculum is provided.
As an example, let’s consider training on ‘Human Factors’. Oftentimes trainers in their recurrent training modules for Business Aviation crews refer to very famous and highly publicized air carrier accidents such as Tenerife (1977). Examples pertaining to scheduled commercial fixed-wing operations may not be the most effective to ensure the assimilation of training contents for helicopter maintenance technicians (as an example). An organization should oversee training content and ensure that suitable examples are relevant to the audience.
“Every curriculum should be customized to the specific needs of the flight department and in turn the passengers of that flight department,” Herbert notes.
Keep it Fresh!
Training should also be kept fresh to avoid complacency. By keeping the material current, senior pilots who have been through the training drill multiple times in their career can continue to engage.
Curricula “should be updated every six months and remain relevant to industry changes and trends,” adds Herbert. “There is always opportunity for improvement in a flight department – so no matter how senior a pilot may be, there may always be new information introduced that can be applicable to his/her very next flight.”
In short, to run an effective training system you should be proactive about your Flight Department’s training. Be intensely involved in the definition of training content, and be sure to update the syllabus to remain fresh and relevant always.