MPL remains a work in progress

This first appeared as a Comment in the 8 April issue of Flight International

The multicrew pilot licence (MPL) is here to stay, but it remains a work-in-progress. That was the verdict at the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s MPL symposium at the end of last year.
All the states represented at the symposium – based on their experience – confirmed that the MPL concept is proving to be a sound one, and that graduates’ performance after a year or more on the line has been rated good or very good. ICAO, however, reasserted that the validation process must continue, with feedback still required from airlines as the MPL graduates mature and their exposure to a greater range of experiences further tests the product. The International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations wants to see validation continuing until the first MPLs have been selected for command and served as line captain for several years.
This validation process is utterly pointless unless lessons are learned from it, and remedial action taken where indicated. ICAO says although the feedback sample was sufficient to allow valid conclusions to be drawn, it was disappointed that it was not better. But ICAO has, in the light of feedback from approved training organisations (ATO), as well as the airlines, made a long list of recommendations for improvement – mostly in the way MPL courses are structured and focused.
It says that although early graduates are performing well so far, this might be despite the manner in which the instruction is delivered, rather than because of it.
The components that make the MPL a robust concept are that applicants undergo compulsory selection before starting – and the graduates do not get a licence by being airborne for a minimum time and getting lucky with the multiple-choice questions. They have to survive continuous assessment and be judged competent in all the prescribed skills, with the required evidence of competency in each skill defined in detail.
The MPL’s challenge is that because assessment and reporting has to be so extensive and precise – as well as being unfamiliar to the early deliverers – it is far more demanding for the ATOs and their instructors than the traditional commercial pilot licence. The ATOs themselves are, mostly, being suitably self-critical. Their verdict is that training MPL pilots has turned out to be a steep learning curve, and they admit the students on their later MPL courses are benefitting from the experience gained on the early ones. ICAO wants this learning and the resulting evidence-based improvement to be a continuous process – and so it must be.

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