Wouldn’t it be a good idea if the airline and training industries all over the world were to agree on a common set of pilot training, instruction and evaluation standards that reflects the demands on pilots in today’s flying environment?
No-one, anywhere, says it’s a great idea to have a system that trains airline pilots to different criteria according to their nationality. But that’s what we’ve got.
ICAO, IATA, IFALPA, the Royal Aeronautical Society and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations all want common standards. They linked up to form the International Pilot Training Consortium several years ago and have worked to identify and define universal pilot training needs and methodologies based on the output standard – so-called competency-based training. The IPTC working groups have published their findings and ICAO has enshrined many of them in its PANS-Training document 9868, which is a constant work in progress.
So what’s stopping progress toward common – and modernised – training standards?
Last week representatives from all those IPTC groups met at the RAeS in London at the end of a three-year mandate to decide whether it was worth continuing their work, because the results of their labours – PANS-Trg etc – are being totally ignored by almost all the world’s national aviation authorities (NAA), including (in several areas) EASA and the FAA.
Meanwhile IPTC has attracted no funding, and its expert members volunteer time from their day job. That’s unsustainable unless it’s producing results.
The reason they persist? Although none of the NAAs are actually doing anything either to update stone-age training rules or to move toward common standards, there are some signs that the message is getting through. Perhaps it is dawning on the NAAs that if they do nothing from the top while the industry is doing everything from the bottom they risk losing control and fading into irrelevance – a status likely to be noticed by governments looking for cost-cutting opportunities in the civil service.
As it happens the IPTC member organisations decided not to give up and go home, but have proposed renewing the group’s mandate for another three years.
Here are a few quotations from the summing-up session at the conference. They establish a theme:
Peter Tharp, simulation engineer and chairman of the IPTC training devices workstream: “We have not brought our regulators with us. A lack of mutual recognition of FSTD qualification standards costs the industry $32 million in duplicated approvals annually.”
Mitch Fox, ICAO flight operations chief and chair of the IPTC upset prevention and recovery training workstream: “Harmonised implementation is essential…there is a lack of knowledge of guidance that already exists.”
Dr Barbara Holder, Boeing and chair of the IPTC pilot competencies workstream: “We have to work with the NAAs to change their mindset from hours-plus-test to competency-based training.”
Capt David Newbery, Cathay Pacific and chair of the licensing and regulation workstream: “The main problem is the lack of harmonisation among NAAs. They are ignoring [ICAO] standards and recommended practices.”
Capt John Bent, aviation consultant and formerly Cathay Pacific, chair of the training practices workstream: “Regulators will not enable change for operators and air training organisations.”
In spring 2017 ICAO will hold a meeting at its Montreal HQ to review progress. The world’s NAAs are on notice to prove, by then, that they still have some relevance in the oversight of modern commercial air transport.