At the end of 2013, ICAO will hold a proof-of-concept symposium for the multicrew pilot licence (MPL) adopted in 2006. The licence and training system could be rejected as inadequate - but is that likely? Not according to Capt Dieter Harms, a senior Lufthansa pilot also known as "father of the MPL" for his work with ICAO and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations to define the competency elements and performance requirements for a pilot operating as a part of an airline crew, on which the award of an MPL is based. There are more than 600 MPL-licensed pilots globally, Harms told the Royal Aeronautical Society's (RAeS) Flight Crew Training Conference in September, adding that "the vast majority are performing above the standards expected of graduates from the commercial pilot licence courses".

MPL take-up has been slow but is accelerating, Harms says: 50 US states recognise MPL, 16 countries have flight-training organisations that run MPL courses, and 20 airlines have set up partnerships with FTOs to train their pilots to MPL standards. Harms says that in December 2010, 1,000 MPL students enrolled, with 180 graduations. By September 2012, there were 1,900 enrolments and 600 MPL graduations. ICAO says future qualifications for pilots and air traffic controllers will be subject to the same competency measurements used to define MPL requirements. The organisation makes it clear this is the only viable route not only to measurable competency, but to unified global standards in licensing aviation professionals.

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Mitchell Fox, ICAO chief of flight operations at the Air Navigation Bureau, said at the RAeS conference that once on the line, recurrent training for pilots and controllers will be increasingly shaped by evidence of training needs, rather than performance of statutory exercises which Harms calls "inventory-based training".

The new concept, known as evidence-based training, is already in use by some carriers such as Emirates. The use of line experience to determine what is required, and adopting the concept of training pilots to competency in particular manoeuvres or scenarios rather than only testing them on a pass/fail basis, will bring a new culture to recurrent training.

Harms explains the basis for the new emphasis on competency-based - rather than hours-based - training that arrived with the MPL: "It is based on the insight that inventory-based training and the repetition of past accident scenarios is insufficient to prepare pilots and crews to successfully handle the infinite number of unforeseeable situations they might face and that only the existence and the continuous application of a set of core competencies enable pilots and crews to operate safely, efficiently and effectively, and manage the infinite number of abnormal situations in modern civil aviation."

The facts of modern aviation are that increased reliability will mean rarer technical occurrences, but increasing aircraft complexity also raises the chances that - when things do go wrong - the number of unforeseeable combinations of factors that could occur also increases.

Training, Harms argues, has to provide crews with the basic knowledge, skills and mental resilience to be able to deal with combinations of circumstances for which there is no checklist solution. It is proactive rather than reactive training, he adds, predicting: "Be assured, MPL will continuously grow. The recovery from the current crisis will augment this trend, provided that the international airline training and regulating community is able to facilitate a globally harmonised and standardised implementation."

Source: Flight International