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Training New Hires and Current Crew: Preparation Can Improve the Experience

Changes in the flight department – in aircraft and in the staff – are inevitable. Pilots move out, move on and change companies or careers. But as long as there is a need for rapid on-demand transportation, the company airplane will remain a key asset, which means filling the occasional flight-department vacancy.

Replacing a pilot can present challenges, first in finding and clearing the best available candidate, and also in fulfilling training requirements specific to the operation, FAR 91 or FAR 135.

Part 135 operators already operate with an approved training program to guide the new-hire's introduction to and qualification in the operation and its aircraft.

Flight crews in Part 91 operations, conversely, must fulfill FAR 61.58 requirements for training and currency – often involving no more than completing a single, straightforward currency check for crew already rated in the type and category aircraft.

But both initial and recurrent training for FAR 91 operations can become opportunities to get more from the training than the annual or biennial checks required in 61.58.

Improving the content and effectiveness of pilot training for FAR 91 operators was the focus of a two-day workshop organized by NBAA's Safety Committee and held at the Association's Headquarters in Washington, DC late last year. Participants included several dozen NBAA Members, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) staff and representatives of the major training vendors, according to Doug Carr, NBAA's vice president, safety, security & regulation.

"I think the workshop helped our training centers and our operating Members understand their options for influencing training practices during their regularly scheduled training events," Carr explained.

FAR 61.58 Sets the Bar

FAR 61.58 details training requirements for FAR 91 pilots, saying:

Pilot-in-command proficiency check: Operation of aircraft requiring more than one pilot flight crewmember.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, to serve as pilot in command of an aircraft that is type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember, a person must—
(1) Within the preceding 12 calendar months, complete a pilot-in-command proficiency check in an aircraft that is type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember; and
(2) Within the preceding 24 calendar months, complete a pilot-in-command proficiency check in the particular type of aircraft in which that person will serve as pilot in command.

Discussing how to meet these requirements while improving training generated a number of suggestions during the workshop and helped clear up some misconceptions, Carr explained.

For example, one area of recurring confusion arises from a misunderstanding about who can get training credit in a simulator, and which simulators qualify.

"Early on, credit for simulator training was limited by Congress to air carriers," Carr said. "Over the years, training centers received exemptions allowing credit for training in a simulator for Part 91 operators."

Those exemptions underpinned FAR 142, which essentially consolidated all those exemptions and broadened their applicability.

Tailored Training: It's Possible With Some Effort

Checklists. Every aircraft has one, but flight departments often tailor versions to match their operation. Yet, pilots often find the training vendor limits them to using the training center's FAA-approved checklists, detracting from the efficiency and effectiveness of the training, whether it's for a new hire, or is recurrent training for a long-time company pilot.

FAA representatives at NBAA's Training Committee workshop explained how operators can solve this disparity through advance work with training centers and their aircraft manufacturers to gain FAA approval so the operator's pilots can utilize the same checklists they actually use on the job.

Carr noted, "We also talked about how some operators are unsure how to get the most out of their training visits – how to work with the providers to get beyond generics and into detail specific to the operator.

"For example, one operator asked how they could spend time in recurrent training on something meaningful and new instead of spending another half-day class reviewing the same systems, which haven't changed in years and won't change in the future."

Another aspect of training examined during the workshop involved exploring changes to FAR 61.58 checking requirements to go beyond mere proficiency by advancing the training so pilots come away with more information and knowledge.

"In this case, perhaps there's something we can learn from how the airline industry has improved their training by using AQP [advanced qualification program] to improve our own processes," Carr explained.

Improving Training and Ultimately Safety

Since training plays a key role in safety for business aviation, it is hoped that the workshop's results will ultimately lead to new NBAA products focused on helping operators make the most of their new-hire and recurrent-training sessions.

"We saw this workshop as an opportunity to speak face-to-face with everyone involved in business-aviation pilot training," Carr explained. The issues were known and the right people attended, so that we all walked away with a common understanding of not only training requirements, but also where opportunities exist to improve.

"I think it not only helped our training providers, but also our operating Members to understand their options for influencing training practices and what happens every six or 12 months."

According to Carr, the NBAA Safety Committee will next start work on new products geared to address the solutions identified in this workshop and hopefully, at the end of the day, will improve the training experience for business-aircraft operators and ultimately the safety of their operations.

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