WATS – World Airline Pilot Conference, Day 2 Review (April 18, 2018)
by Marty Kauchak
Session 5 – Focus on Current Air Carrier Training Issues
Industry veteran Scott Nutter of Delta Air Lines, passed on valuable lessons learned to delegates assembled during the first presentation, regarding his office’s experience meeting aircrew training expectations and requirements for a rapidly evolving Delta fleet. It’s an understatement to note Nutter and his training department colleagues are working concurrent, training system “clean sheet” designs – they are in fact supporting A350s and Bombardier C-Series jets on order. Nutter has clearly done his research and has personally investigated new and emerging technologies being integrated into the airline’s training systems. It is no surprise that the Delta training strategy includes a rich mix of learning technologies. While training for the legacy programs includes e-learning and flight training devices (FTDs) up through full flight simulators (FFS), the training team is breaking new ground with its switch from a Level 6 to 7 FTD for the A350 training system. Partnering with FAA, Delta is preparing to complete its A350 field study starting 01 July 2018, to validate the learning modules in that aircraft continuum which are a best fit for the device. The interest in a Level 7 device is generated by its perceived ability (when compared to an FFS) to increase availability and schedule flexibility, reduce facility requirements and device maintenance expenses, and improve training quality. Nutter is also well versed in discussing emerging learning technologies, stating that he extensive, recent experience in wearing goggles, “being wired” and even wearing gloves providing haptic responses. Accordingly, the industry veteran noted AR and other technologies have potential for supporting flight training, “but they are not there yet, they are not mature enough.”
Captain Pierre Wannaz from Swiss International Airlines pointed out that flight data animation allows pilots and flight crews to debrief based on factual evidence, which leads to better understanding of flight events and their root causes. To that end, CEFA Aviation has flight data animation products which facilitate knowledge exchange between crew members and allows a pilot to benchmark against his or her own performances to improve future flights.
Session 6A – Current Training Issues
Captain Shem Malmquist brought his experience as a B777 captain to bear when discussing Training to Facilitate Adaptive Capacity in Automated Systems. The veteran aviator offered that a NASA study showed that self-reflection of a pilot’s own performances provides a 20% improvement in comprehension compared to a traditional instructor-trainee briefing.
Dan Littmann of FlightSafety International, and Mike Jackson of FedEx Express, provided an in-depth look at the state-of-the possible in full flight simulators (FFSs), and along the way asking some probing questions including can lower-level skills be moved to lower level devices.
The value proposition for FFSs is significant as the devices help develop and improve skills for the safe operation of an aircraft. And beyond that the community uses FFSs to have a controlled replication of the real-world environment to help teach dealing with the unexpected. While decision-making and crew resource management are typical of processes used in FFS scenarios, so to, will increasingly complex tasks, such as soon-to-be introduced loss of control events in US community FFSs starting next March. Yet, the experts noted the potential to move lower level skills into lower level devices. “We’re always looking at that,” declared Jackson. Without using the term “negative training value,” the industry veterans also noted limitations to events introduced in FFS scenarios, as they may be distractors, create confusion and have other unplanned consequences. In one instance, while noting air traffic control and communications play may add fidelity and increase the aircrew’s workload in a scenario, the content can be distracting if it is not realistic. Further, improvements can be made throughout the notional FFS. For example, for the instructor/operator station: better graphics are needed for weather phenomena (wind shear, micro bursts, others); lesson plans need to be more easily developed offline; and the ability to collect data and monitor performance need to increase. At the end of the day, it is simply not cost effective to do everything in simulators – time is money. The issue resonated well during a post-session Q&A, when a delegate questioned the value of inserting clouds in many scenarios. While the delegate noted his most significant experience with cloud formation was during trans-oceanic flights, the value of inserting clouds and other phenomena into many scenarios was questioned.
Session 6B – Human Factors Insights
Carolyn Vaughan of Qantas Airways, told delegates that human factors (HF) “is not just a training thing”, it is a systemic approach to safety needs across the aviation enterprise. To that end, the community expert noted HF should be integrated in improvements, safety, productivity and safety – to name a few applications.
Fujii Shigeru of Japan Air Lines, updated delegates on his airline’s efforts to establish a proactive and productive system to mitigate/minimize/eliminate PIC fatal decision-making errors by deep learning AI. Deep learning AI has been successfully used in adjacent high-risk sectors – for example, finding lung cancer as well as evaluating bus drivers. In this instance, the activity is taking place using a B787 simulator at the JAL CAE Flight Training Center. In essence, the AI system recognizes voice, motion and equipment, and prompts the training audience members when there are perceived abnormalities in training. Abnormal occurrences in scenarios viewed by delegates, included the aircrew chatting too much, as well as a wrong runway incursion.
Juan Rivera, PhD of the University of Central Florida, presented an initial report on what lessons learned from crew resource management programs in adjacent sectors, the US airline industry can embrace. Rivera and his UCF colleagues are in the information gathering phase of a project to provide scientific and technical information to FAA as it updates its Advisory Circular on Crew Resource Management Training (2004). A number of concurrent activities are underway. First, the team is reaching out to US carriers to obtain background literature and other data, seek responses to UCF questionnaires on the topic, and observe this training on site. An initial finding is that while CRM training procedures and models differ among the carriers, there are some common principles. While air carriers have CRM training in place, some are able to harmonize stakeholders (pilots, cabin crews, dispatchers, others) schedules, permitting joint training to occur. Evolving challenges emerging from the research phase include the ability evaluate the effectiveness of air carriers’ CRM programs, including joint CRM training. As significant, the UCF is also seeking insights from the military, medical and industry sectors regarding their CRM training efforts, to answer the research design question: what can the US civil sector gain from CRM training activities in other sectors? The effort has hit a “sweet spot”, so to speak, from the perspective of 2018 WATS sponsor Halldale Media Group. Of significance, cross-pollination, or carry over, of training concepts among high-risk sectors is a topic of interest to Halldale and its three publications: MS&T, MTM and CAT.
Session 6C – Special Panel on Instructor Resources
A cross-section of industry experts from around the globe focused more attention on a topic briefly addressed in earlier panel discussions – the instructor in the airline enterprise. Sunjoo Advani, PhD, of IDT, led a panel which established agreed-upon attributes for these training professionals. Captain Paul Scully of Aer Lingus, gained the concurrence of other panel members when he offered that with regard to experience, pilots need to get involved as an instructor at an early phase of their career, so they can combine and bring, youth, experience and enthusiasm to their position. Suheil Abumariam, FRAeS, of Gulf Air, emphasized that instructors also must be expected to transfer knowledge. Advani’s discussion of the importance of demographics in the instructor community became multi-faceted. In one instance, it was observed younger members of society tend to learn by doing, are dynamic, seek instant gratification, and are tech savvy. To that end, ALPA’s Todd Lisak noted these group characteristics, in turn, force instructors to tailor their messages to very different students, and that it was imperative for these professionals to be quick and agile, and comfortable working with technology. Demographics also embody the necessity for instructors to teach using different learning styles. An attention getter was the revelation that Gulf Air’s pilots identify with 47 nationalities and speak 60 different languages. It was the panel’s consensus that learning needs to be adaptive to give everyone a chance at success, and instructors must consider cultural differences. Abumariam encouraged the community to advertise and cast a wide net, so to speak, when seeking and selecting new instructors, and be cognizant of applicants’ competencies as pilots. Indeed, it was noted a good pilot does not make a good instructor. The panel members concurred that making an instructor is a major investment, but one that provides a significant return on investment – making air operations safer. David Smith of TRU Simulation + Training and Scully emphasized the need to often take “baby steps” in training, offering the community’s sharpening focus on rolling out and delivering UPRT instruction, qualifies for this instructional design methodology. A variety of instructor models – from the mentor to a nurturing teacher to a military drill instructor-like individual, were offered as templates for instructors to embrace. In a theme that delegates heard in Day 1 world airline pilot track presentations, there was little surprise the panelists suggested instructors should emulate mentor-like roles. Audience members contributed to the spirited discussion about instructor proficiency. One audience member noted his airline’s instructors fly one month and then devote one month to simulator and other training responsibilities – offering the added benefit of keeping the instructor “fresh” from an operational perspective. Another idea generated by a delegate offered the possibility of flight instructors having a two-year sabbatical, where they might alternately teach at an air university.