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How Has The Airline Flight Training Process Changed?

In recent years, the aviation industry has undergone significant transformations, driven by advancements in technology, updates to regulations, a persistent shortage of pilots, and so much more. As a result, there has been a gradual shift in how pilots are trained to operate aircraft safely and efficiently via major domestic and international carriers.

Given the crucial role that pilots play in air travel, the training process is built in such a way to equip them with the high-level of knowledge and refined skill sets required to complete their duties without error. With new technologies that are helping increase cockpit time and increasingly complex aircraft systems, the training process has had to adapt to keep up with these changes. At the same time, airline pilots have been constantly understaffed due to issues within the industry that are starting to be addressed. 

With that said, there are many changes the airline industry has gone through in the past few years, and several more that are coming in the near future. If you’re thinking about starting out in a lucrative career as a professional airline pilot, here are some things that you should know – let’s take a look!

Flight Training Regulations

Aviation regulations are critical for maintaining safety and efficiency in the aviation industry. As new technologies and practices emerge, aviation authorities like the FAA update regulations to ensure that pilots are adequately trained and equipped to operate aircraft safely. 

One notable change to pilot training regulations was the implementation of the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification requirements, which went into effect in 2013. Under these regulations, pilots who wish to fly for commercial airlines must now hold an ATP or restricted privileges (R-ATP) license. This requires additional flight training and experience beyond what was previously required for a commercial pilot license.

As a result of this, a first officer in domestic, flag and supplemental operations must now hold an ATP certificate and an airplane type rating for the aircraft to be flown. Pilots with fewer than 1,500 flight hours may qualify for a restricted privileges ATP certificate. This R-ATP certificate allows a pilot to serve as second in command in domestic, flag, and supplemental operations not requiring more than two pilot flightcrew members. 

Will The FAA Update The 1,500-Hour Rule?

As of now, it looks as though the 1,500-hour rule under the FAA, which dictates that a pilot under command of a commercial airliner have at least 1,500 hours of flight time before they can become a first officer in the U.S., will remain in place. The rule is designed to verify a pilot’s skills and qualifications before being hired and operating aircraft. 

While Indiana-based Republican Airlines lobbied the government to reduce the number of hours to 750, their petition was rejected in 2022. By enacting this rule, some think this will provide a much-needed boost to the current shortage of pilots, however, it may increase the risk of accidents. Time will tell if the FAA decides to overturn the rule as it stands.

COVID-19 Updates

Health regulations related to flight training are also impacted by other factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the pandemic, aviation authorities around the world have implemented measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, including changes to flight training procedures and the introduction of new health and safety protocols. These changes have required flight training programs to adapt quickly and implement new procedures to ensure the safety of students and instructors.

New Training Methods

In addition to the regulations above, the FAA has introduced new training standards, such as Evidence-Based Training (EBT), Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Scenario-Based Training (SBT), which aim to enhance pilot training and improve safety outcomes.

Evidence-Based Training

EBT, or Evidence-Based Training, is a specialized program that uses data and research to inform the design and implementation of training programs. The aim is to equip pilots with the necessary abilities to effectively handle hazardous situations that may arise during flight operations. By focusing on tailored approaches, EBT ensures that pilots are prepared to navigate any challenge that may come their way, ultimately contributing to safer and more efficient air travel.

Evidence-based training involves identifying the specific skills and knowledge that pilots need to perform their jobs effectively and designing training programs that address those needs. Today, many airlines are adopting evidence-based training as a way to ensure that their pilots receive the most effective training possible. This approach has led to the development of customized training programs that are tailored to the specific needs of each airline and its pilots, resulting in more effective and efficient training programs.

Crew Resource Management

Crew Resource Management (CRM) is a training approach focused on improving communication, decision-making and teamwork among flight crews. In the past, the airline industry had a hierarchical structure where the captain had complete authority over the flight. With the introduction of CRM, however, the industry has moved toward a more collaborative approach where all members of the crew contribute to the decision-making process. 

CRM training focuses on teaching pilots to work together to identify and solve problems, rather than alone – especially during unexpected events. Today, airline flight training programs incorporate CRM into all aspects of pilot training to ensure that pilots are better prepared to handle issues in the sky thanks to a support system of crew members.

Scenario-Based Training

Scenario-based training involves presenting pilots with realistic scenarios and allowing them to use their knowledge and skills to solve problems. This type of training helps pilots develop critical thinking skills and prepares them for the complex and dynamic environment of modern commercial aviation. With SBT, pilots are presented with different situations, such as equipment failures, adverse weather conditions or emergency landings, and have to apply their knowledge to make decisions that ensure the safety of the flight. 

This approach helps pilots develop the ability to think on their feet, make quick decisions, and effectively communicate with crew members and passengers. As the airline flight training process progresses, scenario-based training is establishing itself as a core component of these programs – it has already started replacing the traditional approach of memorizing procedures and checklists.

Domestic Airlines Are Introducing Their Own Training Programs

In the past year, domestic airlines have started their own pilot training programs, following a strategy that has long been employed by international airlines. These programs are designed to provide pilots with the training for an ATP license, while tailoring the learning process toward internal processes that encourage a pilot into employment. At the same time, it’s one of the largest investments in fighting the pilot shortage yet.

Airlines hope to utilize these pilot training programs as a way to recruit and retain top talent. By offering a comprehensive training program that leads to employment, airlines can attract candidates who are passionate about aviation and eager to pursue a career in the industry. This creates a pool of highly skilled pilots who are committed to the airline’s success.

Which Airlines Offer Training?

Several airlines have recently announced that they’re opening training facilities or offering specialty programs through their organizations, including:

  • United – Aviate
  • Southwest – Destination 225°
  • Delta – Propel Pilots
  • American Airlines – Cadet Academy
  • Alaska Airlines – Ascend Pilot Academy

Flight Schools Partnerships Offering Higher-Quality Training

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of flight schools partnering with airlines, universities, aircraft manufacturers or other organizations to drastically improve pilot training programs. This collaboration allows students to benefit from the strengths of both institutions, while creating a well-rounded and comprehensive training experience.

Some flight schools have partnerships with airlines, aviation companies and aircraft manufacturers, which can provide students with a direct pathway into the industry. These partnerships can also lead to job opportunities, as airlines and aviation companies often recruit graduates from partner institutions.

Another example, when a flight school and university partner, it improves both ends of the schooling spectrum – classroom work and real-life training. This provides students with hands-on training and practical experience, while universities can offer a more structured and academic approach to learning. By combining these worlds, students gain a deeper understanding of the theoretical principles of aviation, as well as the practical skills required to become a competent pilot.

Expanded Accelerated Programs Through Flight School

Because there is such a massive need for pilots, local flight schools have also upped the ante on the quality and speed of training services offered. With things like high-quality accelerated courses that allow the students to earn certifications in a fraction of the time. While the schooling will become essentially full time, you can be taking-off in a new aviation career in just a few months, and possibly working for the airlines in a couple more years.

Technology

As technology continues to rapidly advance, the aviation industry has also seen a significant shift in the way pilots are trained. In the past, pilot training was predominantly conducted in a classroom setting or through hands-on experience in the cockpit. However, with the introduction of new technologies, pilot training programs have evolved to include a range of innovative tools and systems designed to enhance the learning experience and provide pilots with the skills they need to operate advanced aircraft. Here are some of the new and upcoming technologies that are being used in pilot training programs today.

Automation Training

Today’s commercial aircraft are highly automated, and airline training programs reflect this reality. Pilots are trained to use automation tools effectively and to monitor the aircraft’s systems to ensure that they are functioning as intended. The use of automation has significantly reduced pilot workload, enabling them to focus on other critical tasks. 

However, the increased reliance on automation has also led to a concern about pilot complacency and loss of manual flying skills. As a result, modern airline training programs place a greater emphasis on the manual handling of the aircraft, like takeoffs, landings, safety procedures and other critical phases of flight.

Introduction of Advanced Flight Simulators

Modern flight simulators are highly sophisticated training tools that allow pilots to practice a wide range of scenarios in a safe and controlled environment. Today’s simulators can accurately recreate a variety of weather conditions, equipment failures and other key scenarios, allowing pilots to gain valuable experience and confidence in handling unexpected events. The use of simulators in pilot training has increased over the years due to their effectiveness in providing a safe and controlled environment for practicing critical procedures and maneuvers, while cutting costs on a student’s plane rental needs. 

The advanced technology in modern simulators provides pilots with a highly realistic simulation experience, including cockpit controls, visuals and sounds, which allows for more effective training. Pilots can practice emergency procedures, flying in different weather conditions, and handling equipment failures, all while from the safety of the ground. Simulators are also cost-effective for schools, and airlines can save on fuel costs and maintenance expenses that would have been incurred with real-world flight training.

Have Fun Taking Off In A New Career!

Now that you know how the flight training process has changed in recent years, you can be better prepared for whatever lesson comes next in the cockpit. From changes to regulations, the way in which pilots are taught, new schools under direction of the airlines, local flight schools investing in themselves and an expansion of new technologies, the industry is ever-changing – and that’s what makes it exciting! Enjoy taking off in your new career, and if you ever need help obtaining a pilot license, contact Inflight Pilot Training today.

Do you want to start training as an airline pilot? Contact Inflight today!

We offer a variety of professional pilot training programs that will give you the skills and experience needed to land a job with the airlines. From private pilot all the way up to ATP and beyond, we’ll help you become a licensed pilot, no matter what level you want to achieve. Get in touch with our highly skilled and experienced team of certified instructors today and start soaring after your dreams!

For additional information on Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.