Pilots need a very unique set of skills, competencies, abilities and personality. Some of these have to be present as a prerequisite, some can be trained. Others need to develop over the years. Today, however, pilot skills and entry requirements to the profession are under growing scrutiny and strain. The challenges are known: growing competition in the aviation sector, an increasingly challenging economic environment, exponential growth of air traffic and an increase in automation. Yet, pilot training seems to be a field that airlines prefer to outsource. As a result, they are increasingly losing the control over the qualifications of one of the most important safety pillars in aviation: the flight deck crews.
ECA is closely monitoring training programs within its Working Group and is a key partner in the establishment of the new EASA Part-FCL and Part-OPS legislation that describe the whole set of pilot training and operations. ECA is also a member of on-going EASA rulemaking tasks (e.g. on CRM training) and will continue with its active involvement in the upcoming discussions on loss of control.
Legislative texts about Flight Crew Licensing are very important, but one may wonder what pilot training entails in reality, whether it is sufficient, or whether the right skills have been trained. In short: What is pilot training and how can we achieve a level of proficiency necessary to operate safely?
Due to the economic and technological changes and challenges related to them, ECA is constantly looking at pilot training: shall we train pilots to understand what the plane is doing and teach them to simply “manage” it? Or shall we train pilots to be able to really fly the plane using the so-called “stick and rudder skills” used since the dawn of aviation? The answers will shape the future aviation safety. Ultimately, it must be the pilots themselves who will be part of the solution. This view has been presented within the common global view of the IFALPA Pilot Training Standard (IPTS) that was released in March 2011. ECA and some of its Member Associations have been instrumental in establishing this IFALPA standard on pilot training. More information you can find here.
In 2013 ECA published the “Pilot Training Compass: Back to the Future”, gathering the expertise and insights of pilot training experts from Europe and all across the globe. The “Compass” is an open invitation to all stakeholders to have a fresh look at pilot training and to discuss with pilots what “learning to fly” really entails.
The “Compass” touches upon the overall scope of the pilot’s profession and training programs, including the selection principles and competencies necessary for airline pilots. Among the most important conclusions of the report is that pilots need to be able to develop and seamlessly shift between different skills sets: flight deck management skills and basic flying skills. Yet, these fundamental skills, such as performing a hand-flown approach, still lie at the basis of pilot professionalism and are the key to ensure a safe, sustainable lifetime performance by pilots.
The rapidly evolving aviation operating environment requires airlines to adapt continuously to maintain the viability and relevance of their training programs. The traditional approach of curriculum construction largely influenced by what operators and regulators “think” should be trained, is however no longer effective. In addition, lack of pilot involvement contributes to these deficiencies. This is why ECA, as an association representing European pilots, has been actively following the issue. ECA is advocating for more attention to pilot training and a comprehensive approach which ensures the highest possible standards from the initial selection of candidate pilots up to recurrent training of experienced pilots.
EASA has recognised the importance of a competent crew in its latest European Aviation Safety Plan 2013-2016 by including ‘competence of personnel’ as a systemic issue. EASA, triggered by the results of a cockpit automation survey, conducted in 2012, set up a list of action proposals to improve various training principles. ECA will further promote the “Pilot Training Compass” as a reference for EASA’s search for measures to mitigate the risk of increasing pilot’s reliance on automation.
Also the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has picked up the problem that more and more automation is reducing the actual manual flying time. In January 2013, the FAA released a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) stating that recent analysis of flight operations data "identified an increase in manual handling errors. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) believes maintaining and improving the knowledge and skills for manual flight operations is necessary for safe flight operations." Amongst others they recommend to all operators to take an integrated approach by incorporating emphasis on manual flight operations into both line flight and training. The “Pilot training compass” confirms this by putting emphasis on the need to increase the training of manual flying skills.
- Executive Board Director: Paul Reuter
- Staff member: Paulina Marcickiewicz
- Working Group: Training, Licensing and Operations (TLO WG)
- Chairman: Dara Van Langen
How to become a pilot?
Some of our members have valuable information on the existing pilot training schemes in their countries. These include the length of the training, the cost, the different steps in the training and much more. For more information go to: