Getting Down to Business
Chuck Weirauch investigates the work of the NBAA Safety Committee’s new Business Pilot Training Project.
While business aircraft accidents worldwide were down in 2012, those involving US business jets were up last year over the total in 2011, according to business aviation safety expert Robert E. Breiling Associates. Despite the fact that that US business turboprop aircraft accidents were reportedly down last year, the 2012 jet aircraft statistics add more fuel to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)’s position that the industry needs to revamp and improve on the way that business aviation training is conducted.
And that’s the whole point of the Association’s Business Pilot Training Project, an effort which began in 2011. By the latter part of 2013, the NBAA Safety Committee plans to announce the Project’s recommendations that are based on an extensive survey of its membership and input from Committee members and business aviation training providers. These recommendations will be presented in two primary documents; the NBAA Business Aviation Pilot Standards and Skills Guide and a Training Program Development Guide to help business aviation flight departments work with their training providers to employ the most effective training programs for their operations.
The primary focus of the Training Project is on recurrent training. While 96 percent of NBAA member pilots participating in a Project survey reported that they were satisfied with training provider FAR Part 61.58 required recurrent proficiency check programs, 70 percent reported that they felt they were “just checking boxes”, instead of receiving what they considered to be actual training. As a result of this survey, the Safety Committee began studying ways to improve the value of recurrent training, recommendations for which will be outlined in the Project documents.
“The issue was that there was quite a bit of feedback from NBAA members that the training received at Part 142 training centers was not meeting their specific flight department needs,” Steve Charbonneau, Secretary of the NBAA’s Safety Committee and Chairman of the Business Pilot Training Project, pointed out. “The NBAA Safety Committee wanted to better understand what the issues were. We took a full year to understand what there was underlying that sentiment. Now we are in the position to want to offer some solutions to this issue.”
While the NBAA membership did not give specifics about the 61.58 recurrent training at the Part 142 centers, the general feeling was that there is very little training being done, only the required certification or recertification of pilots. There are more than 300 elements of the Practical Test Standard that must be verified as part of this training, which means there is very little room for any actual training in the time allowed. Essentially, the only training that is done is to bring a pilot up to that standard, or give him or her more proficiency so those pilots can achieve or re-achieve and demonstrate the standard.
“There is a focus on recertification versus training at these Part 142 centers,” Charbonneau added. “Instructors say that there just isn’t time to do anything else, and some instructors are in a routine, just giving you the same program every six months. The attitude is that only so much can be done in the Part 142 training center setting.”
Because of this attitude, for individual pilots and their flight departments that want them to get more training value while at the Part 142 centers, currently the only option is to sign up for additional separate training courses offered at more time and expense, but that pilots do not get FAA credit for completing. However, the NBAA Safety Committee leadership feels that in 61.58 recurrent training there is an opportunity to bring in more risk awareness and training mitigation through the incorporation of risk-based training scenarios that highlight the unique risks determined by individual business aviation flight departments.
Just how those training departments can work with their training providers to develop and implement such elements into the curricula is one of the areas to be outlined in the upcoming NBAA Business Aviation Pilot Project documents. The NBAA approach would be to introduce training modules that could be merged into recurrent training, since it would be nearly impossible for training providers to develop scenarios for every operator’s unique situation.
“Clearly such elements as aviation decision-making and crew resource management are addressed today already in the 61.58 requirement,” Charbonneau said. “However, they are not usually applied and not usually assessed because it’s a very prescriptive environment. Our recommendation will be that flight departments begin to build and partner with their training providers to develop training modules that are scenario-based, and address their risk-based, data-driven needs.”
In other words, using a training management-type system, a flight department would both look back at their performance data and then look forward at their future risks, Charbonneau explained. Out of this data, the flight departments would develop scenarios that would train skills which would mitigate future predicted risks. As an association, the NBAA needs to develop a process to help its membership conduct such risk analysis of where their threats are and then apply risk mitigations that include training which is unique to their operations, he added.
According to Doug Carr, the NBAA’s VP of Safety, Security, Operations and Regulation, the key to the success of NBAA efforts to revitalize recurrent training is partnerships. He noted that training providers CAE, FlightSafety and SimCom have been working with the NBAA Safety Committee on the Business Pilot Training Project as “willing partners.”
“The primary focus of the Project at this point is the recurrent training every 6 or 12 months, depending on the operator, and allowing them to bring more of their training management systems into their training program,” Carr pointed out. “This is going to require work on everybody’s part to facilitate that kind of training perspective in that when we begin to identify risks from our safety management system or other safety system that the operator might have, we need to incorporate the data into training to eliminate that as a risk. Today, because of the structure of Part 142, we find ourselves in a situation where it can be difficult to quickly modify training programs to address unique situations. So our hope is to turn that operator information into valuable training in a way that doesn’t put the recurrent training cycle out of sync with the problem that the risk area may identify. We shouldn’t have to wait to work on training problems.”
CAE has been contributing subject expertise to the NBAA task force review, and Steve Hall, CAE Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Compliance, has been the company’s subject matter expert contributing advice and recommendations to the NBAA Safety Committee’s Business Pilot Training project.
“We regularly work with our business aviation clients to tailor training to their unique needs,” Hall said. “CAE has offered for many years and continues to offer a wide range of alternate recurrent training programs to supplement the required curriculum. These advanced, approved programs include international procedures, runway safety, high altitude performance, RNAV performance-based navigation, even special approach procedures for individual airports such as Aspen, Colorado. Some of these are five-day courses resulting in a 61.58 pilot-in-command proficiency check; some are only an hour or two. We also feature several complimentary courses such as controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), ditching, runway incursion prevention, and others.”
Hall also cited CAE Simuflite’s new partnership with Aviation Performance Solutions (APS) to provide “a comprehensive mitigation strategy to the largest threat to aviation safety”, the Loss of Control Inflight (LOC-I) program. At the NBAA 2012 Annual Meeting, Lou Nemeth, CAE’s Chief Safety Officer and Randy Brooks, APS’ VP for Training and Business Development, provided an overview of this program as a part of the NBAA Safety Committee’s Session at the show.
In order to make the Project a success, the FAA must also play a key partnership role in the effort, Carr pointed out.
“Our hope is that the FAA would be very much a strategic partner with us in identifying a way for this to happen,” Carr said. “The FAA is interested in the some kind of effort that would take business aviation training to the next level. That’s because right now we have been in the 6- and-12 month 61.58 recurrent training cycle for three or four decades, and there really hasn’t been any kind of progress when it comes to advanced business aviation training skill sets. We would like to move in this direction to see how we can benefit from the training by taking advantage of the technology that is out there. This might mean a day or two of training while at the home base through the Internet, for example. This approach would be a huge incentive for companies to plan their training and save money by bringing in advanced capability and flexibility at reduced cost, and a way to provide a successful solution.”
But while the FAA would need to be a key player in the effort to modernize business aviation recurrent training, the NBAA’s goal is for the program to be a voluntary one.
“We have a very good system in place today for checking capability against established standards,” Carr pointed out. “The challenge that we are facing is we need to find a way to bring all of the advanced safety analysis that we are doing into training. I think the airlines have already done that, or they are a lot farther down the road than we are, And in order to keep pushing our safety record, as good as it is, lower and lower every year, we are going to need to focus on areas that we have not traditionally spent a lot of effort on. So I think that this NBAA Business Pilot Training Project, if we are successful, stands to be providing a lot of safety benefits to the industry through the incorporation of training opportunities that reflect the unique risk areas for a company that they have not had an opportunity to deal with previously. And I think that if this could be done more cheaply, then we have really hit a home run.”