For decades, airline training has been done the same way. With the rare exceptions when individuals are drastically underperforming, all pilots are trained to the same level. At first, you might think this is a good thing. After all, don’t we want all pilots to be trained to an equal proficiency? Not exactly – and, with recent advances in technology, there is no reason to.
Let’s look at recurrent training as an example. Recurrent training is given on a regular cycle and, for that particular cycle, every attendee receives the same training syllabus. That syllabus might read, for example, that students will review three systems (Electrical, Hydraulics, and Fire Protection) as well as pilot fatigue, limitations, and memory items. No matter what skill or experience level, each pilot in that recurrent class will get the same training. Each individual will receive the same materials to prepare, they will listen to the same lecture, they will watch the same CBT course, and they will take the same exam. It doesn’t matter if they are a 25 year veteran or have been an employee for six months and are still on probation – everyone will all get the same training.
When you give this some thought, you realize that, quite literally, that the recurrent training being given is relevant to exactly … no one. The 25 year veteran has seen and heard it all before. In fact, that person may have written the training program for Hydraulics, but instead of exploring new areas or deepening their knowledge, they tolerate the lecture all the while reinforcing the belief that recurrent training is a complete waste of time. Conversely, the six month employee will get more benefit (just because their knowledge is not as fully developed), but the recurrent classroom is not a welcoming environment for the type of questions and basic instruction that will really benefit and increase the new hire’s system knowledge.
It is so easy to collect and analyze large amounts of data today, that almost any airline can set up a system by which test questions, oral performance, and in some cases, work performance can be continually analyzed to determine strengths and weaknesses in specific areas. This type of analysis should not be based solely on what questions an individual had trouble with, but also how that person is improving or declining over time as well. Additionally, it is equally important for each airline to create and foster a true safety culture – the type of culture where employees are encouraged to ask questions and make suggestions with the sole purpose of improving safety by expanding their understanding and knowledge.
Ask yourself this question: “What is the ultimate purpose of training?” I believe it is to continually increase the knowledge (both individually and collectively) of all staff resulting in a continual improvement in safety – both at your specific airline and across the entire industry. When you look at it that way, why would you ever consider training everyone exactly the same?
-Wally Hines, JETPUBS Inc.