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Aircrew Training Panelists Discuss Strategies and Challenges to Minimize Costs

October 20, 2009, Orlando, FL – Panelists from leading flight departments, the training industry and government met to discuss current training challenges during an NBAA2009 session titled "Business Aviation Aircrew Training on a Tightening Budget." According to the panelists, now more than ever, cost-sensitive, safe and efficient training methods and partnerships must be explored while challenging government regulations should be rethought to best serve the needs of pilots.

"How many of you have had an increase in budget this year?" asked Stephen J. Gross, director of worldwide sales for FlightSafety, an international business aviation training company. Underscoring his point, no one in the audience raised their hand.

Gross explained that flight departments can reduce costs by working with a training provider to craft the optimal training program and schedule, while meeting requirements with a combination of e-learning, classroom and flight simulator training.

In particular, e-learning and increased training partnerships both were touted as smart cost-saving strategies. "The FAA has been very progressive when it comes to classroom training," said Joseph Hartmann, director of sales and business development at Aerosim Technologies, a flight simulation and training company. "You can now fulfill many training requirements on aircraft systems, procedures and general subjects through the Internet and desktop applications, which can be handed out to pilots on USB drives," explained Hartmann.

Neil Brackin, chief pilot at General Mills, stressed the importance of partnering with NBAA regional organizations to share expertise, communications and coordinate efforts.

"These partnerships offer opportunities for everyone in NBAA to increase training with the same budget they currently have while increasing productivity and safety," said Brackin.

Other panelists discussed the impact of government regulations on training costs. "It's of great economic importance that operators have access to more than one training vendor because with only one approved provider, operators have no leverage to negotiate price or terms," said Robert Thomas, founder and president of Taughannock Aviation Corporation. Thomas also proposed that Part 142 Approved Training Centers "teach a standardized core curriculum for each aircraft type and leave the operator-specific training to the operators."

Dan Jenkins, manager of Air Carrier Training Branch, AFS-210, reviewed responsibilities of the air carrier training branch and gave the FAA's perspective on the benefits and pitfalls of contract training. "I believe in the benefits of contract training, including scheduling flexibility, use of simulator training and cost savings derived from only having to pay for what you use," Jenkins said.

"From an FAA perspective, the biggest pitfall is thinking you can just send your pilot and a check to training and have the pilot sent back, ready to go," Jenkins added. "Active oversight by your flight department is key to ensuring that your unique company needs are met and company culture is represented."

All panelists agreed on the importance of continued flight training, even in a challenging economy. "Training and development are the cornerstone to our industry and it must be viewed as more than an expense," said Franco Pietracupa, Bombardier Aerospace, director, Flight Training and Operations.

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