More research is needed into the differences between simulator training and reality, according to several speakers and expert delegates at a UK Royal Aeronautical Society conference on the multi-crew pilot licence .

The MPL incorporates a higher ratio of simulator training to airborne time, and that is an issue that has been insufficiently researched, says Johan Lundstrom, manager of the human factors office at the GCAT Flight Academy, Sweden. He says: "The disconnection between research and basic civil aviation training has been clear throughout the development of the MPL."

Lundstrom poses the basic question: "Do we make the same kind of decisions in a simulator as compared to the aircraft?" He says that studies by Lund University's school of aviation suggest we do not, and adds: "The rather fast implementation of the MPL, particularly in Europe, has created problems - or will do."

The fundamental tenor of the conference, however, showed a broad endorsement of the MPL as a precisely targeted training system, thoughtfully designed to provide pilots with not only the motor and technical skills appropriate to the right-hand seat of an airline flightdeck, but also the wide range of "non-technical skills" necessary for the task.

Lundstrom concurs in this respect: "The MPL is a straight track toward airline employment," he says, adding: "It's not about cheaper and faster, it's about improving the quality of the final product."

Airbus's director flightcrew training policy Capt Michael Varney is almost unreservedly in favour of the MPL. By aiming at providing strategic, not just tactical pilots skills, he says, it can drive up the level of safety. "We know it's the lack of soft skills [human factors, interactive and communication] that kills people," says Varney, adding: "This [soft skills] is the huge benefit MPL brings."

Along with other speakers, Alteon's vice-president marketing Marsha Bell voiced the concern that the most acute limitation on providing MPL training is the problem of providing sufficient high-quality instructors who can not only impart tactical skills, but what the MPL was designed to supply: multi-crew operating skills. It is no longer be sufficient to recruit hours-building recent commercial licence graduates as instructors because they will not have crew experience.

Source: Flight International