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Preparing the Future Workforce

As with most blogs the ideas put forward here are food for thought and not the answers to specific questions.

Aviation and mainstream news organizations are beginning to report on industry initiatives to improve efficiency by reducing pilot costs.

Aircraft manufacturers are under pressure from airline executives to develop technology that satisfies the regulatory and safety requirements for single-pilot operations.

These efforts have led to some very impressive technological and human factors developments. Just as unmanned aerial vehicles would have been laughed off 50 years ago, in the future, single or no pilot flights will be commonplace.

Airbus has completed an autonomous Taxi, Take-off and Landing (ATTOL) using an adapted A350 proving the technology is already here.

In this blog I don’t intend to get into the public or regulatory acceptance of such operations, but the paradigm shift in training that will be required to support these initiatives.

In the past airline training was developed around the type rating which qualified the pilot to fly a specific airplane type.

Once released to the line recurrent training became the ongoing process of maintaining your role specific qualification on that type.

Training programs were Captain centric where the phrase “let the First Officer make the decisions unless you feel you need to intervene” was often heard.

This process was intended to build confidence and hone the decision-making skills in First Officers on their road to command.

Captains would often intervene before the First Officer was allowed to make any mistakes losing out on the potential to identify and enhance weak competencies.

This was understandable as the Captain did not want to be marked as intervening too late and thus affecting their own grading.

The move to Evidence-Based Training (EBT) allows more flexibility using the evaluation phase to observe the competency of each crewmember as an individual.

As full implementation of EBT is rare in the industry it will be some time before this Captain/First Officer training imbalance is addressed.

Although current technology will now support single-pilot operations, how are we preparing the workforce?