Alternative Training Means - light at the end of the tunnel

Alternative Training Means - light at the end of the tunnel

23 Jan 2017

For the past few decades, the Full Flight Simulator has been the one single shining light in effective commercial pilot training. It’s the best place to practice complex multi-crew dynamic flight scenarios, but a huge amount of time gets eaten up with simple, mundane tasks and this is putting more and more pressure on the simulator, instructors and pilots alike. The Alternative Training Means concept paper under RMT.0599 looks to harness the modern advances from the tech industry to bring new solutions for effective pilot training used in parallel with the Full Flight Simulator.

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Traditional recurrent training has been about checking pilots can achieve a prescribed standard on certain key scenarios such as engine fires and failure and single engine work and utilises the simulator and groundschool only - our other blogs cover the issues with this approach to death!

So we want to move to a system where pilots are checked to “recurrent proficiency” against a set of competencies and then involved more in their own training to make it more tailored, fitting with their learning style and ensuring we cover the most important elements that can only be done in a simulator; upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT), manual flying skills, monitoring etc.

To achieve this goal, we have to recognise that the simulator, lonely for so long, needs some friends! So how can we do this? Let’s go back to see what have been the headline advancements in recent years in the tech industry:

  • Computing power is now so high that hardware has moved from expensive classroom-based desktop computer lumps to light-weight, affordable and connected mobile devices. Everyone now has a potential Computer Based Training (CBT) and Flight Training Device (FTD) in the pocket, bag and house
  • Messaging, chat, voice and video chat are becoming a very effective way to communicate and the next pilot generation use these as part of daily life
  • Muli-Touch screens with gestures, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) give users new ways to interact with simulations and the world around them

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So alternative training means will look to put in place a process which looks at which media would be appropriate for each training task. The detail of this can be seen in the EASA RMT.0599 Alternative Training Means concept paper, but to give you an idea there are characteristics like these:

  • Physical Fidelity (how closely the media represents the physical ergonomics of the flightdeck)
  • Functional Fidelity (how well the media represents the flightdeck screens, switches and interaction with them)
  • Information Fidelity (how close does the media represent the accuracy of the data presented)

For example, an Airbus FCOM manual has high information fidelity, but low physical and functional fidelity. An interactive training device (like ours) has low physical fidelity (while replicating it as much as possible in a 2D environment) but has high functional and information fidelity.

There is also the type of task and learning you are trying to perform:

  • Reproductive learning, based on knowing and understanding something and reproducing knowledge, procedures or skills. The student can only apply the material learned in standard or repetitive situations
  • Productive learning, based on integration of knowledge, creative appliance of knowledge or problem solving and producing solutions based on knowledge, procedures and skills
  • Part task training, defined as a sequence of basic tasks that are performed separately and gradually build up to perform the whole task set
  • Whole task training, focusses on the whole task from the start, and is only supported by part task practice when necessary or efficient

A common misconception is that “part task training devices” can only be used for part task training. This is not true and there are many occasions where a part task trainer can be used to perform whole task training, it just depends on the defined learning objective.

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The key is to then apply the process of deciding on the learning objective and required characteristics to each training task to see which media are appropriate to use. A lot of the time this will be the Full Flight Simulator as nothing compares to that with regards to the fidelity offered. However, pilots performing more simple reproductive system malfunction management could easily be brought onto these alternative training devices. Also it allows pilots to learn by adaptive, blended learning; at their own pace in a way that suits their own learning style.

Alternative Training Means will empower pilots to improve and maintain their competencies using a range of highly effective learning devices - the Full Flight Simulator will remain the brightest light in pilot training, but there will be a lot smaller lights added giving us the chance to use the Full Flight Simulator for what it is best for and improve training for the benefit of pilots, instructors, airlines and the industry as a whole.

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About the author: Captain Andy Mitchell (BEng) is CEO & founder of Use Before Flight. He has over 10,000 hours on the Airbus A320 and works part-time as a training captain for a major European Airline. He is an expert in managing agile software teams and a leading expert in Evidence-based training, credited on the official EASA EBT checklist.