Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pilot Careers 2010: A Brave New World

With the industry showing signs of life, preparation and training soon will meet opportunity for prospective pilots

Emerging Solutions In Airline Training

Upcoming demand is shaping the future of airline flight training
It’s always dicey predicting the future. Especially in aviation where wild ideas sometimes become reality and the more conservative ones disappear with a whimper, talking about the future is a hit-or-miss proposition. Still, it’s interesting to watch new ideas as they develop. When it comes to piloting careers, we thought it would be interesting to look at some of the new concepts in pilot training and where commercial aviation is going in the near, and far, future.

Still somewhat controversial, the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) has shown great success in beta tests. Essentially a fast-track, simulator-based training program designed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it’s designed to step up flight training to meet the projected demand of 17,000 new pilots per year needed to fly an anticipated 2.6 billion passenger-miles by 2026.

The MPL is very different from traditional training based on flight hours and increasing complexity. The MPL program can turn out an airline pilot in 240 hours, 210 of it in a simulator. It can be done in 45 weeks versus 18 months to two years in a traditional program. Obviously, cost and speed are driving the success of the MPL, introduced in late 2006. The International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations, the International Air Transport Association and the Flight Safety Foundation all are looking closely at adopting the MPL permanently.

Some foreign airlines like KLM are offering self-subsidized training programs for flight students. Starting salaries are high, and tax incentives exist to help pay back the training. The airline provides $14,000 per year tax-free, and a pilot could pay back the training (estimated at $180,000) in eight or nine years. The training is even insured in case the applicant is later terminated. KLM employs a structured training program heavy on simulator time. This structured training, in combination with self-subsidized and insured training costs, is being examined by airlines here in the United States.

Crew fatigue continues to plague aviation safety, and the FAA is committed to establishing new crew work-hour standards. These sweeping changes will mean new regulations and guidelines for how long pilots can fly without rest. The FAA is expected to propose these new rules in fall 2010. Also, with concern growing over effective pilot-controller communications, the FAA has announced that it’s reestablishing a program whereby federal air traffic controllers can use “jump-seat” privileges to observe aircrew operations in the cockpit. Formal pilot training in radio phraseology also is being considered.

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