British Airways adopts tailored pilot training programme

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Several UK airlines are adopting a new form of recurrent training for their pilots that allows them to tailor training sessions to the carriers' specific needs, rather than following a rigid statutory testing routine.

This alternative training and qualification programme (ATQP), approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, is being adopted by British Airways, EasyJet, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomsonfly and Virgin Atlantic.

BA's head of flight technical and training, Steve Sheterline, says: "ATQP allows us to manage training time more effectively by using evidence-based data. Our crews will now have more time for training rather than being constrained by some of the elements of the fixed training and testing regime."

The CAA says it has worked with BA for two years to develop the changed approach to training that ATQP represents, and emphasises that it does not mean a saving in total training time. Since it is a closed-loop system, training and testing results also have to be monitored.

ATQP is not only airline-specific but fleet-specific, the CAA explains, and it is based on meeting the training needs demonstrated by experience, as revealed in mandatory occurrence reports and the carrier's operational flight-data monitoring programme.

Sheterline says ATQP will be rolled out over BA's entire fleet during the next 12 months, but that it is already operational in the carrier's Boeing 777 simulators at its Cranebank training centre near London Heathrow. BA says ATQP does not involve special equipment nor modification to existing simulation.

BA's flight-training manager, Keith Dyce, who was responsible for producing the BA ATQP, says genuine training time is created by performing the statutory tests, like engine failure during take-off, only once a year instead of twice, but the crews still do their six-monthly recurrent training sessions. These are used to improve pilot knowledge and performance where it is shown to be needed.

The ATQP model is based on the US FAA's advanced qualification programme, which US carriers have been free to use since 1990. But Dyce points out that the European Joint Aviation Authorities did not provide guidelines until 2006 on how to apply its own regulations on the subject. Swiss International Air Lines and SAS Group have also adopted ATQP.

Read more about the new training at BA at Learmount's blog