Boeing subsidiary launches pilot training programme in Australia and works with regulators on approved syllabus
Boeing’s Alteon training division says its first multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) training course, with six cadet pilots from two Chinese airlines and six places yet to be filled, will inevitably be a validation process for the new training philosophy and licence type.
The International Civil Aviation Organization's standard for the MPL will be implemented on 27 November, so Alteon is among the lead organisations working with regulators to create an approved MPL syllabus.
The Alteon MPL course will take place at the company's training centre in Brisbane, Australia, in association with the Airline Academy Australia , which will carry out all the airborne - as opposed to simulator - flight training using its four-seat Diamond DA40 four-seat trainers.
China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines have signed up with Alteon to send three cadet pilots each for a course to train them as fully fledged first officers for their Next Generation Boeing 737 fleets, starting in December. The planned schedule would have the newly type-rated pilots working on the line by the first quarter of 2008, says Alteon.
The main driver for this change in training focus toward a tailored programme producing airline first officers in a shorter course is the rampant growth in demand for airline pilots. By 2024, Alteon forecasts the world will need to have trained around 367,600 new pilots because the global airline fleet will have doubled by then. The parts of the world with the most urgent need for new pilots now are China, India and Vietnam, says Alteon.
How the syllabus will work
Alteon's vice-president first officer programme, Marsha Bell, says the MPL programme aims, from the outset, to produce pre-selected first officers for individual airlines, rather than pilots competent to conduct a flight alone, which is what the CPL course now requires. But, she says, although the course will be shorter in duration, it will not necessarily work out to be a low-cost option.
Alteon explains its methodology for the airborne part of the training using four-seat Diamond DA-40s with glass-cockpit avionics: "We intend to train from the start as a three-man crew, pilot flying, pilot monitoring and pilot observing. The pilot observing will lead the debrief using LOSA [line operations safety audit procedures] so threat and error management becomes a natural part of the way our MPL-trained pilots fly."
So although each student gets only 84h as pilot flying, he or she also gets 84h as pilot monitoring - effectively the normal pilot-not-flying role - and again as pilot observing. The simulator training will be in fixed-base devices based on the type the pilots will fly in service, so the training process seamlessly integrates with the type rating training that is conducted in a full flight simulator as normal. At all stages, the students have to meet competency objectives.
Finally, the MPL syllabus requires 12 take-offs and landings in the real aircraft before the licence is awarded.
Apart from producing type-rated first officers trained to the employing airline's standard operating procedures (SOP), the MPL course's advantage is its brevity. It would take as little as 13 months to produce a type-rated first officer trained to a specific airline's SOPs under the fully integrated MPL programme, but it could take up to 36 months via the traditional commercial pilot licence (CPL). After being awarded the CPL, the pilot also requires a multi-crew jet conversion module, followed by a type rating training course.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Airline Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) is still voicing doubts about the MPL syllabus's capability to produce fully competent pilots, because they will have been trained from the outset as a part of a crew - never as an individual. The weak point, IFALPA argues, is the performance of the MPL pilot in the event of the physical collapse of the pilot in command, and it advises caution in drawing up training syllabuses to ensure the graduates have that competency.
Alteon says it is still working with Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority to get its MPL syllabus approved.
Read our editorial leader comment on the multi-crew pilot licence.
And Kieran Daly's blog on whether airline pilots actually need ever to fly solo.