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Airbus Official Urges Major Pilot Training Changes

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Airbus Official Urges Major Pilot Training Changes

Old 25th Jul 2013, 07:09
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Exclamation Airbus Official Urges Major Pilot Training Changes

While Googling I stumbled upon this speech made by a former colleague, Captain Jacques Drappier, Senior Advisor Training, Airbus.
The speech was made at the World Aviation Training Conference & Tradeshow 2012
Even though there are already a few topics in the Tech forum about the auto-flight vs manual flight debate, I thought it was advisable to start a new topic to give the speech the attention it deserves.
Your ideas or remarks are welcome!
Maintaining Manual Flying Skills

Over the last few years, and more so since the Colgan and AF447 accidents, loss of control, manual flying skills and automation has been at the heart of many discussions in about all major aviation conferences.
During the last decades, automation has been brought into the cockpit to help the crew and to increase the overall safety of the flight.
We all agree that the major technological advances in aviation have resulted in faster, more efficient and safer operations. Without this automation, such things as CATIII, RVSM and RNP would simply be impossible.
I believe that in the continuous improvement of safety over the years, automation has been instrumental, and that the continued efforts of the manufacturers to further enhance safety, economy and comfort will bring even more automation in the cockpit.
But nothing is perfect, and with the undeniable advantages, automation has also brought some side effects.

Manual flying skills

A number of high profile accidents over recent years have opened the awareness that one of these side effects could be the loss of the manual flying skill and over reliance on automation.
ICAO shows Loss of Control as the major factor for fatalities.
Airbus studies show that in the FBW aircraft, overruns are a greater danger.
But are we really looking at a problem of erosion of manual flying skills ? Or are we looking at an issue of airmanship?
When looking at cases where flying skill was blamed, often the real cause of the accident was a lack of situational awareness, lack of airmanship, or disregard of rules.
But even if it is true that we have lost these skills, is it really important?
And if we answer yes to these two questions, then what can we do about it?
That is what I want to discuss in the next 20 minutes.

Is it true?

Most of the accidents happen in approach and landing phases, where typically the pilot could be manual flying. Some examples are Toronto, Sao Paolo, or the Philippines – where overruns happened after manual flights. But the question remains if handling is the main factor or a contributing factor.
Tail strikes and hard landings are probably more indicative of real handling problems. However, we must be cautious of making easy conclusions. Certainly if you hit the tail during flare, or slam it in the ground, there is a handling problem. But maybe the unstabilized approach didn’t help?
The Loss of control accidents would indicate that basic flying skills are either missing or have eroded, and there has been a clear cry for specific training. But again, a lot of these accidents also show lack of recognition or anticipation.
A study on the impact of glass cockpits in 1985 showed issues with automation. A study on performance of pilots in 1995 showed first signs of erosion of skills. So the problem is not new and probably getting worse, although we do not have objective scientific data to support it.
But let’s assume that the industry has indeed a problem, and that yes, it is true.
I want to stress that we have to avoid generalizing and thinking that all pilots have lost their skills. That is simply not true. In our training center we certainly see some who are a bit rough on the edges, but we also see some excellent handling.

Is it important?

Now if the first question is not black or white, this one is even less easy to answer. We need indeed to see what the impact is of this reduction of general handling skill on the safety to determine the importance.
I remember flying the B707, a “fly by cable” plan e with no hydraulics and some very stiff controls and lots of lag between any control action and aircraft reaction.
Carrying out a crosswind landing was really a challenge and it took real handling skills to master this plane.
But then again, a lot of training was done: simulators were not very good so we spent hours in the pattern doing all kinds of dangerous stuff.
On the line we would fly the plane at least to 10,000 feet before engaging the primitive autopilot, and nearly every approach was hand flown.
Today we have fly by wire, automated planes, where the pure handling skills needed in daily life are very limited.
The automation has moved the emphasis away from flying the plane and has allowed the commander to free his brain from this “lower level” task and use all his brainpower to manage the flight.
Hand flying is reduced to the minute after TO and maybe the last 2 minutes before the landing.
And because flying is so much easier, and the environment has become so much more challenging, training emphasis has shifted for very good reasons to more procedural training, LOFTS, CRM etc.
So we all agree that the automation is better for overall safety, efficiency and comfort. Is it then important to keep the same level of manual flying skills as in the old days, or are other elements today more important?
So actually whereas the use or importance of manual flying skills is reduced in normal operations, what I would call 95 per cent plus, these skills are necessary when it comes to some abnormal situations or challenging conditions, where then actually pretty sharp piloting is required. The transition between smooth easy flying on AP and being challenged by hair-raising situations can be very abrupt in the modern cockpits.
In some respects, automated aircraft may require a higher standard of basic stick and rudder skills, if only because these skills are practiced less often and maybe called upon in the most demanding emergency situations.

What is also important is the perception by the pilot of his own piloting skills.

Let me explain this
Our captain has been flying for days, months, years according to company procedures letting the automation take care of the basic handling and doing an excellent job as a captain. He has done his compulsory one ILS with engine inoperative in the FFS every six months, and that has been it. Now one day he is confronted with some weather in an airport, which is not instrument-approach equipped, and he faces the challenge of a manual approach and landing in crosswind.
Now he becomes worried because he starts realizing that maybe he is not up to it. He has not done that in months or years. But diverting does not seem an option because the book says he is within limits. His anxiety now takes over and deteriorates his performance even more. Results
can be pretty bad.
Furthermore, physical flying skills are one of the critical elements of situational awareness.
Maintaining proficiency allows a pilot to devote less mental energy to flying the aircraft, thus allowing more attention to be de voted to other mental tasks.

So finally, is it important or not?

I believe that the importance has been reduced from the past, but that basic handling skills are still essential for safe operations.

What can we do about it?

So since we believe that the erosion of flying skill is real, and since we believe there is an importance to this, the question is what to do about it?
We cannot answer that however, without further analyzing what is the root cause of this erosion.
It is too easy to blame the automation. It is there to help, and most of it is selectable, meaning you can ignore it or switch it off.
The study I referred to earlier came to the conclusion that there is no evidence that the deterioration of skills was solely because of a lack of practice. Other contributing factors could be in play, and this applies especially today.

Let’s talk about a few

First, if we say there is erosion of flying skills, we assume these were there to start with.
Let’s begin with the first officers. Do you really believe that the cadets today have the same capabilities as those that came out of the schools 30 years ago, or out of the military? Self-sponsoring has brought a competitive element in the training, unfortunately meaning : the cheaper the better.
Of course some schools still do a decent job, but too many pilots are qualified with very shaky skills, and how do you build experience on a shaky foundation?
Next are the young captains. We used to have 10 years plus of first officer before transitioning to the captain seat. Now we see in some areas of the world upgrades to commander in less then four years because of the rapid expansion of the business.
Did they get the mentoring that they deserve before starting command upgrade?
Where they given the opportunity to hone their skills during the type rating?
Did they get serious and comprehensive command training?
Thirdly, if these skills existed, then why are they eroding? Obviously the lack of practice or training can be the only explanation. Pilots need to maintain their flight skills and be able to maneuver the aircraft manually within the standards set forth in the relevant regulations. This can only be achieved through regular practice.
Clearly here we have a dilemma. On one hand it is obvious that company policies are being set up insisting or mandating the maximum use of automation for the benefit of safety and economy.
So there is a strong pressure to avoid hand flying.
Airbus recommends in its Golden Rules the Optimal use of automation.
On the other hand, without practice any motor skill will diminish, so will the piloting skills. It looks imperative that the pilots get a chance to practice. But even if the airline allows the captain to choose to fly manually sometimes, operational circumstances such as fatigue, traffic or
weather will reduce further the opportunity for manual flying.

Training

If we accept the above series of root causes, namely lack of proper initial training, lack of experience and lack of recency, then training is the obvious answer.
Initial : The initial training is an important element in the whole career of the pilot, and the foundation of his future performance.
Sufficient time should be spent to ensure the young cadet has understood and mastered the basic
flying skills before moving further in the curriculum.
Type rating: During the type rating the handling skills should be developed/refreshed. We must use the time in the FFS to do more handling exercises and do the automation exercises in the FTD.
At least two sessions of simulator should be devoted to the handling.
Recurrent: This is where we need to put more effort. In the recent years we have seen a reduction in overall time spent in the simulator in many areas of the world. Programs such as AQP can certainly help in optimizing the time in the FFS, and EBT will also greatly improve the efficiency of the recurrent sessions.
But that will not be enough. If we want the pilots to remain proficient in manual handling in abnormal or difficult situation, if we want them to be proficient in upset recovery, crosswind landings etc, then we will need dedicated sessions in the simulator.
I know that Emirates, although being an early follower of EBT, has introduced supplementary sessions of pure handling for all its pilots. I am sure others are going to follow because if we take this issue serious, we will all come to the same conclusion.
We have come a long way in the training industry. We have implemented CRM, we have introduced LOFTS, we are on top of the automation, but we seem to have lost something else in the process and it is time to correct that.

Conclusion

The debate on handling skills or pilot skills has been going for a long time.
There have always been people with more feeling, better touch, and more anticipation.
Over the years rules have been established, guidelines developed and standards been set to evaluate these skills.
In a continuous-and-successful quest for safety, the industry has introduced more and more tools to assist the pilots in their tasks. These tasks have been evolving as well, into more management of the airplane instead of flying.
Fly by wire was certainly one of the most significant improvements introduced 25 years ago. It let the pilot fly manually while giving a large protection against gross errors, and significantly reduces the difficulty of handling the plane. During the development and further refinement of the control laws we have always been careful to keep the basic handling principles the same.
But handling skill, be it less demanding then before, is still needed. And proficiency at that can only be achieved through training and practice.
Regulators should carefully review the situation and see if the present rules are sufficient, and if enough data is available to determine which maneuvers and how much hand flying is sufficient for the modern pilots to keep their basic skill sharp.
Operators should establish their rules and SOP’s with safety as a prime goal, but without forgetting that safety one day can mean to be able to skillfully hand fly an approach and landing.
In the future with RNP approaches, NextGen etc, automation will be increasingly mandated. If a balance between manual flying and automation in line operations is not practical or possible due to the type of operation, then training is the answer.
It may be in the best interest of safety to enforce a strict automation policy, but then you have to train in the FFS for the unexpected or exceptional manual flying cases. You cannot expect your pilots to handle a plane like a test pilot in 45-knot crosswind without sufficient training, or recurrent training. Some companies have understood this and have taken some positive steps.

We must also remember my statement of the beginning -today we concentrate the discussion on handling skills, but most of the problems created by the erosion or l ack of these skills could have been avoided by good airmanship, applying CRM, using threat and error management.
We must continue to practice handling, but balance it with much more effective employment of the defenses to prevent the aircraft ever arriving in the unsafe condition.
Overall, each member of this industry has his role to play, and together we must strive towards our ultimate goal of safety, without forgetting any aspect of what it might encompass.

The superior pilot is one, who by superior airmanship avoids situations where he needs the use of his superior skills.
About the Author: Captain Drappier is a former Sabena management pilot. Whilst with Sabena he held various positions in the training and flight operations departments, ranging from instructor pilot to Director of the ab initio school, ending his time with them as Executive Vice President of Operations.
At Airbus he has been four years responsible of all training programs, followed by two years as Senior Director Flight and Cabin Crew Training. His responsibilities included the development of all A380 training material.
In 2007 he took the position of Vice President Training and Flight Operations, responsible for all training matters including four Airbus training centers, and all Flight Ops deliverables like operational documentation, performance software and Safety management systems.
In Jan 2011 Jacques left the executive role and is representing Airbus as a senior consultant for training and flight operations matters worldwide.
Jacques Drappier has 12,500 hours and has flown all Airbus types from the first A300B2 to the A380, and is an instructor on all Airbus FBW. He was born in Belgium in 1952.

Last edited by sabenaboy; 25th Jul 2013 at 07:12. Reason: added an icon for the message.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 08:07
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So this guy was in 2007 in charge of training at airbus. How come the standards are so low than? No criticism intended. It is more about the low standard of airbus training and why is it so bad, while everybody talks about improvement.
There must be some other forces behind the scene in place. Like economy or unvillingness to risk your neck to improve something.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 08:48
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Thumbs up

So this guy was in 2007 in charge of training at airbus. How come the standards are so low than? No criticism intended. It is more about the low standard of airbus training and why is it so bad, while everybody talks about improvement.
There must be some other forces behind the scene in place. Like economy or unvillingness to risk your neck to improve something.
Well, I used to know this guy, because we used to fly in the same Glider Flying club in Belgium and later in Sabena. I haven't seen him in over 12 yrs now.

In Sabena (and thus in Belgium), there was always a lot of emphasis in manual flying skills. After the Sabena bankruptcy al lot of trainers were hired by Airbus or got involved in all other Airlines in Belgium, all bringing with them their love and understanding of the importance of basic flying even in the most modern aircraft. Now, if you're asking me why Airbus hasn't already started emphasing on basic flying in their own training centers? Well, I don't know, but I guess that commercial pressure from within and from customers is tough to fight. I'm pretty sure Drappier and the other Belgians tried to put more emphasis on basic flying the minute they joined airbus. (Read this article published in 2009)

I also think that over reliance on automation did not start with Airbus. I believe it started with EFIS and both Airbus and Boeing but also most airlines are to be blamed. All the 777 operators I heard of, strongly discourage their pilots to switch off the A/thr and manipulate the levers themselves. I can only hope that operators will start to realise that allowing their crew to maintain their basic flying skills (No A/P, F/D or A/thr) is essential!
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 09:58
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Sabenaboy,

As a trainer on the B737, I can tell you that you are boxing an enemy that will outlast all of us.
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Old 12th Apr 2015, 19:49
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Airbus Official Urges Major Pilot Training Changes

From the Wall Street Journal today April 12, 2015:

Airbus Official Urges Major Pilot Training Changes - WSJ
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Old 12th Apr 2015, 20:46
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Right on !
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Old 12th Apr 2015, 20:49
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"Another issue Mr. Nelson raised could be equally thorny. As planes get ever more reliable and older generations of trainers with strong manual flying skills retire, their replacements typically lack comparable experience......

“Tomorrow’s instructors will not be teaching from personal exposure” to emergencies that required pilot interventions, Mr. Nelson said. “They’ll be speaking from hearsay.”

There is a response that "airlines are now encouraging pilots to fly manually more often." From experience most airlines I've been involved with recently do the opposite. Also many SFI's teaching FFS TQ sessions, and therefore the first introduction to manual flying, are low experience pilots who have very little manual handling experience. Blind leading the blind comes to mind. There is a philosophy that maximum use of automatics is safer and more cost efficient. To implement the thrust of this topic will require quite a major change in some senior manager's opinions. A real cultural change in some companies. Interestingly this talk was given to pilot union representatives and not airline DFO's, Chief Pilots, HOT's and more importantly XAA personnel. He probably was preaching to the converted. Hopefully this could be the start of something exciting and very necessary.
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Old 12th Apr 2015, 22:37
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“It used to be cool to be a pilot,” Mr. Nelson said Saturday. But these days “for a lot of pilots it’s just another job,” he said, adding that such attitudes provide further impediments to lifelong learning.
Ain't that the truth! See it all the time these days.
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Old 12th Apr 2015, 22:55
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It needed to be said, and more power that it came from an Airbus official.

Weaning pilots off automatics requires a carrot and stick approach.

If they know that 50 or more percent of their next simulator will require demonstration of hand flying skill, maybe pilots will practice more on the line.
Instructors and examiners need to up the ante by creating realistic LOFT scenarios where the automatics and instruments are degraded. While I agree that such exercises should initially be non jeopardy, at some point each pilot who purports to be a professional must be required to fly with no automatics and limited instrumentation to a cut and dried pass/fail standard.

Because airlines are never likely to allow more than 8 to 12 hours simulator per pilot per year, and because within that time checks to the regulatory standard are required, actual training time plays second fiddle to ticking boxes on the check form.

It would be helpful if we could move away from having to repeat exercises at each session which are fairly rare in real life and not all that difficult to execute. For example, the old V1 cut and emergency descent are now so well known by most that doing it in a two year cycle should be enough. On the other hand, flight with unreliable airspeed and dealing with severe icing situations could be worth doing at more frequent intervals, perhaps annually. Operators whose crews rarely experience severe icing may disagree with this, but they are possibly more at risk in a real event than those who are accustomed to it.

In other words, tailor the training to the situation rather than use a one size fits all approach to satisfy the regulator. Of course this would require cooperation from the regulator.
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Old 12th Apr 2015, 23:46
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If they know that 50 or more percent of their next simulator will require demonstration of hand flying skill, maybe pilots will practice more on the line.
Which will result in more incidents on the line as pilots use aircraft to practice flying for the simulator rather than the other way round. A catch 22 situation.

With increasing traffic density and reducing separation minimums, manual flying will become impractical. The only solution I can see is to roster pilots into the sim every month and practice hand flying in there.
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Old 12th Apr 2015, 23:52
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Mach E Avelli wrote:

For example, the old V1 cut and emergency descent are now so well known by most that doing it in a two year cycle should be enough. On the other hand, flight with unreliable airspeed and dealing with severe icing situations could be worth doing at more frequent intervals, perhaps annually. Operators whose crews rarely experience severe icing may disagree with this, but they are possibly more at risk in a real event than those who are accustomed to it.

In other words, tailor the training to the situation rather than use a one size fits all approach to satisfy the regulator. Of course this would require cooperation from the regulator.
Evidence based training is the catch phrase on my street and to my outfits credit they're heading down that path as we speak. Engine failures at 100 feet on takeoff (autopilot off) were in the last two sims. Not that hard but great to see and be confident with.

We are also actively encouraged to practice manual flight under the appropriate environmental conditions and I encourage my F/O's to do it, most of them seem quite chuffed to be offered the chance, which speaks to a long slow cultural change that needs to occur here and elsewhere.

Given all the technology at our hands it's ironic that this is where the bleeding edge of flight safety is these days. At my previous mob we used to be able to access the company owned sim in fixed base conditions with reasonable frequency, I used to look forward to the sims as sport. Now being at a low cost carrier the sim is owned by a third party and that option is no longer available. That fixed base time has now been replaced by incredibly tedious arm chair flying which will never be as good.
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 00:14
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Whilst I do not for 1 second disagree with the message I have major reservations about the messenger’s organization.

Both the major OEMs now view training as a cash cow and are doing everything they can to (eventually) have total control. (Which they will achieve either via the Seattle ‘royalty’ model or by means of unaffordable data licenses).

Today’s latest generation aircraft training programs are almost totally dictated by the OEMs with even malfunctions being under their control and the FSTD operator having limited or no influence.

For an organisation that now professes to want more hands on training, it is somewhat contradictory that their latest aircraft can be converted onto via a CTR of only a very limited time on a low level Flat Panel Trainer with no simulator time required!!
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 07:55
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The cultural change has enormous resistant inertia. There are airlines out there that allow visual arrivals, reluctantly but discouraged, and require use of LNAV/VNAV and auto throttle and do not turn off the FD if there is an ILS. There are other airlines that encourage the retention of piloting skills. Part of that skill is knowing when to and when not to.
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 08:06
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Interesting to see that it is actually the Wall Street Journal and not for example FlightSafety International dealing with the issue.
Are Insurance companies or other financial people starting to understand that crashing is actually much more expensive than safety (which can not be argued to cost a lot of money)?
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 08:19
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would be interesting to know what he said exactly. any transcripts, notes, or even a video?
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 08:23
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Originally Posted by Metro man View Post
Which will result in more incidents on the line as pilots use aircraft to practice flying for the simulator rather than the other way round. A catch 22 situation.

With increasing traffic density and reducing separation minimums, manual flying will become impractical. The only solution I can see is to roster pilots into the sim every month and practice hand flying in there.
I strongly disagree. There is no catch 22. How does a surgeon remain proficient? There are times when I prefer to use the AP. At no time however, should I feel so overwhelmed that I'm using the AP as a crutch, instead of a tool.

If you think that more hand flying will lead to an increase in the number of incidents at your company, perhaps you need to examine your training department's culture.
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 08:24
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Encouraging the constant use of automation to 'offload Pilots' will and has turned them into a liability that is totally dependent on it.


Just like Asiana in SFO and AF447.
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 08:37
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Apparently that is not exactly new from airbus. They changed their focus during training a lot after AF447. The typerating program for the A350 was developed around that focus with just flying manually at the start and then gradually introducing more and more of the autoflight system throughout the course. I heard a similar presentation quite some time ago.

Sadly, many pilots transitioning to that aircraft don't have to do the typerating course as it is a common typerating with the A330. So a very short conversion course is all that is required.
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 08:54
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deptrai

would be interesting to know what he said exactly. any transcripts, notes, or even a video?
I do not think a video was made, did not see one, but his PPT presentation should be later on the IFALPA web site , like all the presentations. I was one of best presentation during the conference and everyone was looking for it.
The new training tool he advocated was called ACE (Airbus Cockpit Experience) and there is a lot already on the web if you google it.
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Old 13th Apr 2015, 08:55
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Training in the SIM must have direct cross-over to line flying. If it doesn't, then we might as well use cardboard cockpits to just read checklists and go through the motions.
Many people state that they will use the automatics in the real world whenever they suffer some sort of engine failure, but in my current airline they always hand-fly that procedure, and are never allowed to practice with the a/p doing the work.
Genuine 'no-fault' training will go a long way to give crews the confidence and flexibility of approach that will allow them to choose between automatics or manual flying.
Too much in the SIM is done by rote, and too many view their time in it as a stressful hurdle, sadly not the marvelous training tool it really is.
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