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Pilots’ qualifications and where they are acquired determine many different things: the airline’s safety rating and reputation, the regulatory compliance level, their pilots’ job satisfaction level, and last but not least, the airline’s ability to cut costs without compromising the quality of purchased services. The article below outlines the top 5 most essential factors airlines pay attention to when choosing a TR training provider.
- Cost-cutting opportunities
Focusing on growth rather than on reducing expenses might be a more promising idea, provided that no “oddities” are happening in the market in the meantime. However, at the times of uncertainty, such as Covid-19, cost-cutting becomes crucial as airlines seek to keep the company afloat. Therefore, they sometimes choose a creative approach to spend less on training while obeying strict regulatory standards.
The most recent EASA regulatory requirements allow combining training on full flight simulators (FFSs) and flight training devices (FTDs) under the Type Rating program framework. Pilots can complete approximately half of their Type Rating on an FTD instead of an FFS, which drastically reduces the program’s total cost. While being more affordable for flight schools in general, compared to FFSs, FTD equipment offers an enticing training alternative for airlines.
A well-known and continuously expanding low-cost airline Ryanair has successfully implemented the FTD/FFS device mix at Ryanair’s training center. Almost four years ago, when the airline had its FTD Level 1 upgraded to Level 2, Ryanair’s Head of Training, Captain Andy O’Shea, commented, “We are pleased with the successful qualification of our first MPS FTD-2. MPS devices have proven to be very effective in our Enhanced MCC training programs and also in our Boeing 737 NG Type Rating Courses.“
With Covid-19 occurrence, online education has also gained momentum. Airlines are looking to transfer part of their students’ training to the virtual environment. The grounding is simple: no study cancelations due to closed borders and other restrictions as well as lower accommodation costs since traveling comes at later phases.
Airlines aim for maximum pilot training efficiency, consistency in their rosters, and pilots’ overall well-being and stress mitigation. To satisfy all these points, a convenient location of the training center is essential.
Let us assume a client airline is based in Europe, and it aims to send its pilots to complete a Licence Proficiency Check – a course lasting no more than one day. It would most likely consider a simulator center in a European country, which is relatively close and can be reached easily. Transfer flights, travel delays, and other inconveniences would be things to avoid as much as possible so that pilots come, have their licence refreshed, and go back to their primary responsibilities.
Airlines do like to cooperate with companies that look a few steps ahead and can host pilots in their partner hotels not far from the simulator spot, organize transportation to and from the airport, and, of course, the more the terms are favorable financially, the better.
- Training program and instructors
There can be hardly any improvisation in terms of training courses as the regulation tells the last world. Therefore, airlines’ decision-makers attentively check if the training school meets prescribed standards concerning personnel and curricula.
Some of the most demanded courses are the following: Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC), Jet Orientation course (JOC), Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT), Licence Proficiency Check/Operator Proficiency Check (LPC/OPC), and more. Recurrent training under the flight school’s approved program is incredibly convenient for those airlines that do not have their own plan. In-depth Computer-Based Training (CBT) must be incorporated into all Type Rating programs and allow pilots to train on any device while receiving personalized support.
Training instructors’ knowledge and skills, and, most importantly, their ability to share them correctly with students are crucial, especially for the airlines signing a wet-lease agreement. An ability to pilot an airplane does not make one a perfect instructor – only a mix of personal motivation, flight experience, and appropriate training does.
- Training equipment
When it comes to pilots’ training equipment, naturally, it has to be suited to complete the mandatory training outlined in the regulation. First and foremost, airlines do care about any information specifically related to the flight simulation training devices (FSTDs): the type of simulated aircraft, manufacturer, fidelity level, capabilities, and a possibility to book in real-time.
Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 family aircraft are the two most successful aircraft in the world. More than 5000 airlines in almost 200 countries operate the 737. Although Airbus A320 is 20 years younger than its rival, it has gained a competitive edge with nearly 10000 A320 aircraft delivered to airlines across the continents. When a training facility has an FFS for at least one of these types, it is likely to catch the eye of a more significant proportion of customers. Some airlines operate both of these types, for example, the big three United, American, and Delta. For any other airline with the same fleet constitution as the American giants have, it pays off to refer to a training provider with both FFS types.
It is imperative to ensure that a training device is equipped to perform the mandatory functions, well certified, and regularly maintained. Understandably, most airlines want to ensure training on brand-new equipment because it offers more than the one manufactured decades ago.
- All-round flexibility
Aviation is one of the most rapidly changing industries, so it is crucial for its players, including training centers, to be flexible. Airlines know better than anyone else that sometimes a need for various changes comes at short notice.
Therefore, a training academy’s ability and willingness to occasionally reschedule training sessions and negotiate deadlines play a big role in securing a long-term partnership. The training provider should be no different from any other business in putting the customer at the center and listening to their preferences.
Often training academies and airlines mutually work on developing and launching a suitable program. It is also a chance for people in the academic environment to showcase how much they know and understand what is going on in the airline world and get a full picture of procedures, requirements, and values the carrier exercises and communicates to its employees.
Although a training provider is not a tourism agency or a consulate and its key function is to provide aviation training service, customers value and expect help and advice regarding student documentation. For example, the training institution’s intervention can simplify the process of getting necessary visas and other permissions.
The points discussed in the article are general observations based on the insights from airlines. Aviation training providers like BAA Training correspond to the criteria above that airlines rely on when selecting a training supplier or a partner. With its access to over 120 well-trained instructors and an ability to arrange training for 15 types of aircraft in almost 70 of currently available FFSs at 29 locations worldwide, BAA Training comes as a cost-efficient and convenient option for many airlines. Its steady expansion continued even during the pandemic – the company has already built its presence in China, Vietnam, and Spain.
For the first time in the company’s history, the new training center BAA Training Spain introduces a unique cost-efficient opportunity to complete approximately 50% of the Type Rating program on an FTD Level 2 instead of an FFS. This novelty will save airlines up to 40% of their financial resources for each hour on the substitutional device.
„It is an attractive alternative for customers interested in meeting rigorous regulatory requirements and at the same time allocating less budget for pilot training. This is especially relevant now as the airline industry has suffered a profound decline,“ comments Aurimas Urbonas, Managing Director at BAA Training Spain.
It cannot be stressed enough that pilot training in aviation is a continuous process leading a pilot throughout their entire career. Therefore, it is in any airline’s interest to ensure that their aviators go through all the mandatory steps of acquiring and maintaining their licences and regularly developing new skill sets in a highly vetted and reliable institution.