Polish flag-carrier LOT is intending to conduct short-haul Boeing 787 operations in Europe to enable its pilots to gain familiarity with the twinjet, as formal crew training on the type begins.
LOT, the European launch customer for the aircraft, will take delivery of its first 787 on 15 November. It will use the aircraft on several routes - to destinations including Prague, Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Vienna - for about month from 14 December, before deploying the 787 on its initial long-haul route to Chicago on 16 January.
Chief executive Marcin Pirog says the carrier will need about 100 pilots for the first five aircraft, around half of which will be trained in Seattle and the other half at the Boeing flight centre at London Gatwick.
These five aircraft will be introduced over the course of four months and Pirog says LOT's remaining four Boeing 767-300s will be withdrawn as the newer type arrives.
"Beginning in March we'll have only 787s, we'll stop the 767s," he says. "Our first pilots are already trained."
LOT's 787 crew training programme began in August. One of its Embraer 170 captains, Stanislaw Radzio, who begins the Seattle course this September, says: "When I've talked with the pilots who have already passed, they say the heaviest part is the theory - the simulator is a vacation."
Radzio has flown since 1989, on types including the Antonov An-24. Having experienced the Thales-built 787 simulator at Gatwick, he says: "It's perfect. It's what we expected."
For the 787 Boeing has shifted from a "train the trainer" to a "train the operator" philosophy, says Boeing director of 787 training Chris Johnson-Pasqua.
Instead of offering a fixed training package - such as eight crews' worth for the 737 - the airframer provides a flexible points system per aircraft purchased. Customers exchange these points for the operational services they individually require, and are able to choose which of the five 787 training centres - there are others in Shanghai, Tokyo and Singapore - best suits their needs.
This programme gives "much more" training support to 787 customers, Johnson-Pasqua says.
Gatwick has a single fixed flight-training device, complete with flight controls, touch-panel instruments and visual forward views including replicated head-up display data.
Johnson-Pasqua says this brings the "same look" to the procedural trainer as the full simulator allowing a "seamless transition".
Instructor Jonathon Hurley says: "It's used 12 hours a day and so are the simulators."
Pilots with Boeing experience are able to take a shortened course comprising five 2h sessions on the fixed device followed by a single simulator session.
Boeing is installing a second full-flight simulator at Gatwick and is broadening its 787 support network to new locations including Stockholm, Istanbul and Baku.
Ethiopian Airlines and Thomson Airways pilots have also started 787 training at Gatwick while British Airways has conducted an initial survey there. Norwegian and Royal Brunei Airlines are also lined up, and Gatwick hosted Air India before it switched to Singapore.
LOT's initial 787 cabin crews have also been trained at Gatwick. "For the first time we've put a door trainer into the environment," says Johnson-Pasqua.
After Chicago, LOT will use the type on routes to Toronto and New York JFK in the first week of February 2013, and to Beijing in March.