Pilot Training: Outdated Task-Based Method Not Enough for Aviation Today?

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Cooperation is one of the core elements in aviation. Primarily because of its heavy contribution to safe air travel and smooth operations on all the levels of the industry. 

Most probably you are aware of the fact that flying is the safest form of long distance transport in the world. Evidently, these are not the empty words. In 2018, the fatal accident rate was 0.28 per 1 million flights, the equivalent of one fatal accident for every 4.2 million flights.

According to the International Aviation Safety Association (IATA), now aviation is as safe as it has never been before. And each day it is getting safer.

Special Focus: Pilot Training

There are no doubts that highly positive safety indicators closely correlate with the enhancements within the specific areas of aviation. This time I suggest going deeper into the aviation training field, to be even more precise, pilot training.

Regulatory authorities are constantly monitoring pilots’ performance, interactions of the crew members in various situations, their behaviour and attitudes. You may ask why. First of all, to minimise the risk of “human error”.

In the pilot’s profession the impact of “human factor” is massive. Everyone knows that no pilot can fly the plane without a set of technical skills. These are mandatory, indeed. However, it is also hard to deny that possession and continuous development of such skills as communication or decision making are vitally important as well. For any pilot.


Let’s get back to 2018 when the US-Bangla Airlines plane crashlanded at Kathmandu airport in Nepal killing 49 people on board. “Landing was completed in sheer desperation after sighting the runway”. This is the quote from the final report of the accident.

Cockpit is not right the place for overwhelming emotions or rash and unwise decisions. This is the place where only competently applied knowledge and rational decisions should be present.

It is perfectly natural for a human-being to make mistakes. There is no doubt that pilots also make mistakes, either tactical or operational. However, the risks should be taken to minimum.

Will you agree that pilot training and competent pilots are the backbone of safe air travel?

Pilot Training Shifts to Competence Training

Changes are inevitable. Pilot training is also changing. In the past several years this training field has started gradually changing from task-based to competency-based one.

And again we are back to the above-mentioned phenomenon of “competency”. Why is it important? Why is not enough for a pilot to just follow the instructions and simply complete a task after task? And, on the whole, how is it related to safety? The links between all these are direct.

A fully-licenced commercial pilot does not necessarily mean a competent commercial pilot able to properly operate in the multi-crew environment.

A pilot educated only through the task-based method is not enough for the industry today. A professional without relevant competences mastered up to a certain level is not enough to ensure the highest quality and, most importantly, enhanced safety in dynamic aviation.

Thus, who is a competent pilot then? Definitely, it is the one greatly juggling all the technical knowledge. BUT, it is also the one prepared to professionally apply these technical skills in absolutely unexpected, sometimes stressful, situations.

Considering a number of such examples and analysing the way pilots react to extraordinary situations it became clear that there is a need to check if existing pilot training approaches and methods adhere to real conditions in the cockpit, if training programs are not outdated and bring true value.

Consequently, it triggered the following conclusion: in order to properly handle “human factor” in various extraordinary circumstances, technical background has to go hand in hand with nine core competencies indicated by the EASA:

    • Aeroplane Flight Path Management, Automation
    • Aeroplane Flight Path Management, Manual Control
    • Application of Knowledge
    • Application of Regulations and Procedures
    • Communication
    • Leadership and Teamwork
    • Problem-solving and Decision-making
    • Situational Awareness (SA) and Information Management
    • Workload Management

These were not made up just for fun. Each of the competencies was presented after thorough examinations of pilots’ performance, reasons and circumstances of minor/major accidents. These competences is the result of continuous safety analyses carried out by the experts.