The new multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) could be "applied incorrectly in response to cost or time pressures to respond to the current pilot shortage", according to the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations.

IFALPA has formally expressed its worries just as two other global organisations have announced a programme intended to address the growing world shortage of airline pilots.

MPL training standards, specified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, have the potential to produce high airline pilot competency, IFALPA concedes.

But flight training organisations (FTO) and the training syllabus they develop have to be approved in each state by the local national aviation authority, and it is variations at the national level that worry IFALPA.

The Association explains that a liberal interpretation of ICAO's standards for MPL training "could have a detrimental impact on flight safety", adding that "improper application could also erode current, proven training standards".

The pilot association says: "Only a well-devised MPL scheme that is gradually introduced into common use, coupled with an effective advisory board system with a clearly defined charter that assists in implementation of any MPL scheme, will overcome the challenges posed by the new MPL concept."

The FTOs operating MPL at present say the course takes between 15 and 18 months. FTOs in the Asia-Pacific, however, are known to be aiming at an MPL course that takes less than a year.

Meanwhile, the Flight Safety Foundation and International Air Transport Association have announced that they are to co-operate within the IATA Training and Qualification Initiative (ITQI), launched in December 2007, "to review the shortage of skilled staff and develop a roadmap and strategy".

The FSF, says IATA, extends the programme's reach beyond the airlines into all sectors of the aviation industry. The ITQI will also be designed to address shortages among engineers and maintenance certification staff.