The civil aviation training industry continues its inexorable evolution, embracing new technology. Just not as fast as anyone likes, including many regulators. Rick Adams looks at some topics on the regulatory table.

Regulation, certainly in technology-driven industries, tends to lag the capabilities of the industry being regulated. Sometimes far behind. A few operators opt to apply innovative technology and techniques beyond the regulatory confinement, but the regulation must always be the baseline, to the detriment of progress.

Aviation training is going through a slow-rolling sea change, just beginning to implement some new regulations which have been in development for several years or more, such as upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) next year – effective March 12, while ramping up to the radical shift from classic hours-based pilot training to competency-based training and evidence-based training. Still to come, despite the adoption by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) of Document 9625 Edition 3, the Manual of Criteria for the Qualification of Flight Simulation Training Devices (FSTDs), nearly a decade ago and Edition 4 in 2015, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and other National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) are still a year or more away from updating 20-year-old regulations governing so-called lower-level flight training devices (FTDs). And with the rapid advancement of virtual reality, mixed reality, holograms and other content delivery devices which can readily be applied to training, how long before these are considered and deemed eligible?

“There’s a lot of regulatory change going on at the moment and getting the alignment with ICAO 9625 for EASA and FAA is an uphill struggle,” Mark Dransfield told CAT. Dransfield is director of Regulatory Affairs for TRU Simulation + Training and until recently was chair of the training devices workstream for the International Pilot Training Association (IPTA). “It’s long overdue. With EASA it is starting to happen. But there are many other things that need to be done and trying to get attention takes a lot of doing.”

Indeed, at the European Airline Training Symposium (EATS) in November, new EASA Flight Standards director Jesper Rasmussen noted that with drones, new aircraft types, performance-based navigation (PBN), the single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) initiative and other complicated matters on their task list (not to mention the UK Brexit exodus), “the perception in EU states is that EASA is changing too many rules too fast,” and they are being asked to “cool it, slow down.”

 AXIS Flight simulator

Aviation training is beginning to implement new regulations which have been in development for several years or more.
Image credit: AXIS Flight Training Systems.

ICAO launched a task force last year which will, by 2020, “facilitate the effective implementation of competency-based training and assessment in all aviation disciplines,” said Captain Miguel Marin, ICAO’s Chief of the Operational Safety Section. Pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers, flight dispatchers / flight operations officers, air traffic controllers, air traffic safety electronics personnel, air traffic control instructors, flight procedures designers, flight validation pilots, cabin crew members, designated medical examiners, dangerous goods personnel, and aeronautical information personnel.

Captain Tilmann Gabriel, Executive Chairman of the IPTA, said, “This will be a big challenge to get introduced to the regulators monitoring it. Everything will be governed by these new Annex 1 regulations. What I am worried about is this dual challenge: one is the lack of pilots, the other is introducing a completely new educational norm changing our pilot licensing. It’s a challenge for everybody but especially for countries that have a huge growth like India, Africa as a whole, maybe China.”

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