Dynamic, More Realistic Cabin Crew Training
A Dubai-based start-up eyes a niche in the training market and launches a new concept of holistic training. Chris Long reports.
Bilal Tahboub was heavily involved in cabin crew training, back in 2012, with a major international airline, and was increasingly frustrated by the constraints and limitations of working within a legacy training system. He found it was primarily aimed at meeting regulatory requirements without always considering the real world of line operations and cumbersome to move into more adaptive training. Not only was this slow to change, but the questionable relevance of the training tasks and the conservative style of training delivery did not, in his expert opinion, fully prepare crews for their day-to-day role.
Tahboub and Mark Kammer, an entrepreneur originally trained as an engineer and with long-established contacts in Dubai, had noticed that training for crews in the business jet sector did not have purpose-built training programmes and training equipment relevant to the needs of the VVIP market. All too often the only access they had was to airline training sessions, which, both on scale, equipment and service methods, did not match what was needed for VVIP crews. Another critical consideration was that the unimaginative pattern of classroom lectures (death by PowerPoint), followed by perfunctory practical training, did little to build retention of essential skills. This was particularly true of recurrent training, which rarely changed, and simply became a repetitive box-ticking exercise with crew dreading rather than looking forward to it.
By 2014, after a thorough training needs analysis and a detailed business case were prepared, a bold decision was taken to design and establish a unique facility which would not only train for the essential regulatory requirements, but would ramp up the skill sets to match the challenges of the real world. Both Kammer and Tahboub, backed by the financial muscle of a respected Dubai company, Khansaheb Investment, committed to the significant funds required to build a new facility – Dynamic Advanced Training – located in Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub at Dubai South next to the new Al Maktoum international airport. Things started to move in 2016, and the definitive green light for this project was given in April 2017.
The new building was commissioned, and the order book for the extensive suite of training equipment was opened. Right from the start the aim was to provide a full range of training for all cabin crew – both for airlines and the business jet community. Flight deck crew too, could also benefit from the training, not just in the CRM aspects, but also in common training in practical hypoxia awareness, ditching drills, post-crash survival, firefighting and first aid. Not only was SEP training to be carried out, but all levels of service training could be provided, from initial right through to the detail of a demanding VVIP service.
Scenario-Based Training Baseline
Most airlines now use scenario-based training for some of their sessions, but it is a feature which tends to be a bolt-on to legacy systems rather than as the underlying methodology. The difference with Dynamic Advanced Training is that right from the start that philosophy has been incorporated into the whole concept – from the design and layout of the building, to the training tools and on to the format of the courses. The aim was to construct a progression with minimal classroom time. The completion of the course takes place exclusively in a hands-on immersive environment with practical and engaging equipment drills and realistic scenarios. This is not only a setting where CRM skills are developed, but the necessary teamwork actually makes the exercises enjoyable and creates a fun atmosphere. Remedial training is immediately carried out to ensure success. The result, of course, is much better absorption and retention of the lessons to be learnt. Those whose language skills need to be boosted can take part and benefit from the “Learning by Doing” environment.
The team was joined by James Steward, who comes from a highly respected cabin crew and training background, and who added his own expertise to the mix. A passionate and perceptive training entrepreneur, he too is tightly focused on the real needs of the operating crews, in particular in the level of attention to detail and intrapersonal skills which are essential in the challenging environment of the VVIP business aircraft world.
What’s So Special?
This new approach to training includes several innovative aspects. Rather than a classroom-based theoretical course on hypoxia, this team uses equipment provided by G02Altitude, which, with the use of a mask and specialized monitors, safely induces mild hypoxia by varying the oxygen levels in the air breathed. Crews experience and identify their own signs and symptoms of hypoxia – there is a range of symptoms unique to the individual and must be self-diagnosed. This training is, of course, equally valid for the flight deck crews.
Post-crash survival is not always covered in detail by conventional training, but here two separate environments recreate extreme habitats. In the jungle simulator an environment of deep jungle is created, with varying light levels, temperature, humidity and (worrying) jungle noises which replicate situations in which crews would have to cooperate and perform tasks (for instance, building a shelter, collecting water and using water purification) to aid passengers and their own survival. That idea carries over into a polar environment, which creates a blizzard and a (very) cold day/night scenario – again in which various tasks need to be carried out, further developing soft skills and aspects of CRM.
Another striking training is the water survival. This is carried out in the pool – but this is no well-behaved standard swimming pool. A whole range of effects is supplied by specialist equipment manufacturer Murphy’s Waves. From gentle waves to an extremely rough sea, these can be combined with various light levels (drills with only the life-jacket locator lights as illumination), to the impressive thunder/lightning/rain and fog inputs introduced separately or together.
The complexity of these scenarios can be introduced gradually – otherwise the sensory overload would be too much and overwhelm the individual. The training value at that point would be severely reduced, but with a controlled and progressive input the scenarios can get very close to the real world.
Refined Training Equipment
The demands of extended training goals resulted in upgrading the specifications for the equipment which was available. For instance, Tahboub looked at the existing way of using door trainers, and approached the task, not just from a perspective of operating the doors in basic and abnormal modes, but instead refers to it as “Door Management Training”. By restricting the operating space around the door, the context better reflects the limited room around an exit which is exactly like the situation in the aircraft.
Similarly, the business aircraft OEMs did not see the value of purpose-built VVIP aircraft cabins for training, as opposed to sales – the solution was for Dynamic Advanced Training to build their own devices. Two business jet cabin simulators, the first of their kind with one on full motion, replicate cabin interiors and functions with the identical look and feel of an actual business jet. Steward had a significant input at this stage. The task for a VVIP crew often starts by researching the individual needs for both travelling routine and diets and they often have to source the food and be able to stow and to prepare it onboard. So, there will be a fully equipped stock room as commonly found at most FBOs to replicate that task in a fully functional cabin.
Fire training uses a state-of-the-art device supplied by Flame Aviation, but it has been modified with additional functionality. The six-axis motion platforms employed by Spatial Composite Solutions were produced by E2M for the full-flight cabin simulators, which Kammer says provide a smoother and more realistic movement which is nearly indistinguishable from the feel of a real aircraft. This was made possible by the programming and integration of adapted flight dynamic models and visual models by Mile Technology. Synchronized cockpit and cabin visuals show the outside world with displays and perspectives during all phases of flight. That means that both flight deck and cabin crews can work together with visual and audio cues, and these are backed up with at least two olfactory inputs. At the appropriate time a smell of kerosene or electrical fire can be introduced – the aim being to add to the sensory input in any given situation to reinforce the realism and share situational awareness throughout the flight.
Expanding the Markets
One of the advantages of being an independent training provider is that horizons can be expanded. Of course, most airline-owned training organisations concentrate on the parent airline, with space capacity, when available, being offered to third parties. However, without the imperative of training exclusively for a single airline, not only can training be offered to a range of airlines, but innovative uses for sophisticated training options can be customised even to non-aviation companies. The training aids and team-building techniques can be delivered to a broader market. This can even extend to those producing movies/publicity in an aviation context, so an on-site purpose-built film studio and production is available.
The launch was initiated during the recent Dubai Air Show. In January 2020, Dynamic became an accredited UAE GCAA training organisation, in compliance with the FAA and EASA. The team at Dynamic is delighted that training delivery will now start – and the vision has become reality.
Dynamic Advanced Training – Equipment
- Full-Flight Cabin Simulator (FFCS) A318, A319, A320, A321, B737
- Full-Flight Cabin Simulator (FFCS) A300, A310, A330, A340, B777
- Full-Flight Cabin Simulator (FFCS) Business Jets
- Cabin Service Simulator Business Jets
- A350 Door Simulator
- B787 Door Simulator
- Real Fire-Fighting Simulator (RFFT)
- Water Survival Pool
- Polar and Jungle Survival Simulators
- Hypoxia Training Simulator
- Emergency Vision Assurance System (EVAS)