At last Europe is waking up to the fact that recurrent training designed for the age of Stratocruisers and Super Connies has precious little relevance for today's airline pilot.
Remember engine runups before take-off?...relying on the curvature of the earth to get airborne?...and having four engines to cross the pond because you normally arrived with only three still working?
The USA woke up to this fact a while ago (1990) with its advanced qualification programme, but not all carriers choose to use it. Now Europe has it, and it's called the Advanced Training and Qualification Programme (ATQP). Swiss and SAS have begun using it, and now the Nigels [sardonic collective noun for British Airways pilots] are kick-starting it in the UK. According to BA's training manager Keith Dyce there has been "no negative feedback" after some 50 Boeing 777 crews have led the way into the new recurrent training regime.
So what has changed? The exercises that have to be statutorily trained and tested are only run once a year, leaving more time on the six-monthly recurrent simulator sessions for the crews to be given practice at the type of exercises that operational flight data monitoring indicates they need to polish up.
Wouldn't we all like to know what Nigel's not good at?
Unfortunately Keith wouldn't be highly specific when asked for examples, but he did say that half of all the training involves manual flying, including things like pure visual approaches and circling to land.
It's been a while since I've sat behind some hardworking Nigels in a 747 sim at Cranebank, but last time I did we all more or less knew the three-engine ILS approach was going to end in a late go-around, and the drill was that everything would stay on automatic. Manual reversion was only for when the automatics failed or tripped out.
Thank God it's changing. The one thing that Keith did volunteer was that, because this training is aimed at equipping pilots to handle non-normal situations, but not necessarily the abstruse sequence of multiple technical failures designed to see if the pilot was a real man (even if she was a woman), crews are much less likely to be able to guess what's coming.