Nigel learns to fly

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.

How refreshing.



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5 Responses to Nigel learns to fly

  1. Norman MacLeod 27 November, 2008 at 3:57 pm #

    David, alas Nigel is following in the footsteps of the Olafs. SAS Norway implemented ATQP on their F50 fleet on 1 Jul 08. Swiss hope to go live on 1 Jan 09. Rumour has it that BA are not alone in the UK.

    The ‘Alternative’ Training and Qualification Programme has been around for 4 years and JAA Training has delivered 2 workshops on implementation, the most recent just this week. is a forum for anyone interested in getting into this area and the first Users Conference is planned for April 09.

  2. David Learmount 27 November, 2008 at 4:35 pm #

    Norman, thanks for your accurate comments. The Olaf’s – and Swiss – are acknowledged as ATQP practitioners, and there is also a list of the other UK carriers who intend to follow this path in the related story at

  3. Norman 4 January, 2010 at 5:50 pm #


    Having completed two ATQP sessions on recurrent training can I just add that the general feeling among those colleagues I have spoken to. We (if I may be so bold) feel that the system is a breath of fresh air.

    Whilst there is naturally an element of competency checking during the cycle, the training element is substantial, targeted, relevant, positive and feels really beneficial. BA’s flight training regime has had a very positive aspect to it for the last twenty years plus – ATQP is a welcome addition as it provides an opportunity for talented trainers to really use their skills.

    I left the simulator (today) feeling that I have something to take back to the line with me, either a polished skill or a new perspective and approach on an older challenge. What is more, I enjoyed the experience.

    The best thing to happen to airline flight training in many decades imho.



  4. shmaila begum 28 October, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    hi peolple
    i heard that BA give free pilot training is it true?
    & has any one tried the training .
    can you get back to me on

  5. David Learmount 28 October, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    It’s not free, they aren’t always recruiting, but if you pass the selection they do help. To say that competition for cadetships is severe is an understatement.