Multi-crew pilot licence (MPL): it seems to mean something different to each person who expresses an opinion on it. Many views are dismissive, suspicious or patronising. Opinions range from the belief that it is designed as a quick, cheap cure for the world pilot shortage, to the idea that it is destined to create career first officers.

Most opinions like this are voiced by those unfamiliar with the objectives to which the International Civil Aviation Organisation anchored the MPL. Neither can the proponents have been watching MPL's slow birth, where flight training organisations (FTO), entrusted with a concept, struggle to deliver a live course that confers a specified pilot skillset. Equally crucial, FTOs, with their national aviation authorities (NAA), have to devise tests that will prove MPL graduates meet ICAO's performance objectives. The knowledge base is the same as for the air transport pilot's licence.

The existing commercial pilot licence (CPL) training system is conceptually relatively primitive, befitting the environment in which pilots operated back in 1944 but, in the right hands, it produces good results. It simply prescribes a minimum number of hours of flying in the hands of a licensed FTO, on the basis that an aspiring pilot should become competent with about that amount of experience. Finally, a test of instrument flying, navigation and general handling finds out whether the course has achieved - in the examiner's opinion - the intended results, with the aspiring pilot doing everything on his/her own. No crew or leadership skills are trained for or tested.

Pilots in cockpit   

Pilot training is about skillset and quality

MPL course content is based on the first fundamental review since 1944 of the skills an airline pilot needs for today's environment and technology, and which tests will best establish whether the pilot meets the specified performance standards - including crew management skills. Finally, the MPL is not awarded until pilots have successfully completed their type rating for the aircraft they will fly in line service. The MPL is purpose-built, and graduate performance is being monitored at airline level to validate the product. The International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations' valid worry that the MPL could be misused should be matched by an active concern that the present CPL system is inadequately overseen by many NAAs. The MPL is not uniquely vulnerable to maladministration.


Source: Flight International