Old 3rd Jan 2015, 11:42
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Genghis the Engineer
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: UK
Posts: 13,901
Do a degree, be an instructor, don't be too impressed by flying hours....

I've been reading this paper published 2 years ago from several US universities in response to an FAA notice of proposed rulemaking.

"The 2012 Pilot Source Study (Phase III): Response to the Pilot Certifi" by Guy M. Smith, Derek Herchko et al.

It is worth reading the lot, but the maths is a little heavy in places, so let me just quote the abstract. I've highlighted in bold what I think are the most significant bits..

The 2012 Pilot Source Study (Phase III) was a continuation of the 2010 Pilot Source Study (Smith, Bjerke, NewMyer, Niemczyk & Hamilton,
2010), using the same research design with a new data set containing no duplicate records. University faculty and students assisted seven regional airlines to enter data on 4,024 pilots hired between 2005 and 2011. New-hire pilots’ college and piloting backgrounds defined their input (Source) variables. Training and first year operations data defined the output (Success) variables. Identifying information for pilots and participating airlines was removed fromthe data sets, and records were combined into a single data set for independent analysis by five researchers. Results were verified by two independent researchers from the University of Central Florida (a non-affiliated university). Results showed considerable consistency between the 2010 Pilot Source Study and the 2012 Pilot Source Study regarding initial pilot training at a regional air carrier. The study found that pilots entering the industry with an aviation-specific college degree, particularly a degree from an AABI-accredited flight program, performed better in initial training than those with no degree or a non-aviation degree. The results also ndicated that a pilot’s background, such as having a CFI certificate and obtaining advanced training from a collegiate aviation program, is an indicator of success in training. One important result was that commercial pilots had more completions than pilots with an ATP certificate. On the other hand, total flight hours produced inconclusive results.

I think that this is a very important piece of research.

Comparing this to my own background and prejudices - I have two aeronautical engineering degrees, and later did a CPL. I also designed the syllabus of one of the UK's "aero-eng + pilot studies" courses. On the other hand, I've been arguing for years that degree education and pilot training should really be regarded separately: this paper seems to say that I was wrong, and those three years spent putting that degree course together really weren't wasted. [I'm deliberately not saying which one, so don't ask - but anyhow, I am no longer inolved with it in any significant way.]

On the other hand, I've never liked the idea of either the MPL or Integrated courses, and this also seems to support my prejudices there. The paper is saying that people who have gone straight through training from scratch do less well in the airlines than those who have gained a significant breadth of aeronautical education and experience. That at least agrees with the views I've had in the past.

Interesting also that it finds that how many hours you've got is pretty irrelevant to your success in joining the airline. That goes against a lot of conventional wisdom, but it's not unreasonable to say that the quality of experience is what really matters, not the volume of it. The old adage about flying 1000 hours, not the same hour 1000 times.

It is also interesting to read that apparently there is no real difference between having no degree, and having a non-aviation degree, in your success in entering professional flying.

I recommend that anybody involved in professional pilot training, whether as a student or instructor, should read this - it really is an important paper. The obvious next question however, is will this work actually influence anything? It should, but I have a feeling that it won't - the training industry, and supporting regulatory effort, are really very bad at using rigorous research in their work.

Last edited by Genghis the Engineer; 3rd Jan 2015 at 11:55.
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