After I stated my reservations (see blog entry beneath this one) about the European Cockpit Association’s approach to the multi-crew pilot licence (MPL), the ECA wrote to me about it. I asked their permission to publish their letter and they agreed, so here it is:
“We have read with great interest your latest blog on ECA’s MPL position. We welcome another expert opinion, especially when it comes from a well-respected journalist.
“But we do feel a short clarification is in order. We are a pilots’ association and as such we are driven by the objective of ensuring the highest possible level of aviation safety. As clichéd as it may sound, ECA’s mission lies at the basis of all our positions. In the past few years we have watched closely how pilot training standards have been under constant pressure, leading to their deterioration. For ECA and the pilots we represent, developing and maintaining excellent flying skills has become a crucial agenda point. A few recent serious incidents and accidents, which you have rightly reported about on a number of occasions, have only reinforced our belief that pilot training standards, particularly basic flying skills, knowledge and airmanship, are under threat.
“I am sure there’s no need to argue this point as you have yourself often called for reinforcement of pilot training programs. Our “Pilot Training Compass”, which we’ve previously discussed with you, highlights pilot training program deficits that need to be addressed.
“In the same spirit we also scrutinise MPL and we do believe that for the sake of aviation safety, MPL needs urgent improvements. With MPL pilots coming on the line, Captains are gaining direct experience on the strengths and weaknesses of MPL programs with new MPL First Officers in their right hand seat. Some of our members are also directly involved in running MPL programs. These collective experiences have helped form our concerns, as well as identified positive aspects of MPL (which we also address in the position paper).
“However, we cannot close our eyes to the various deficiencies with ‘traditional’ training (for a CPL) that are aggravated in the MPL schemes. We also cannot deny that there are indications the MPL syllabi requirements may be lowered even further. MPL needs improvements and nobody wins from downgrading pilot training.”