Pilots need a very unique set of skills, competencies, abilities and personality. Some of these have to be present as a prerequisite, some can be trained. Others need to develop over the years. Today, however, pilot skills and entry requirements to the profession are under growing scrutiny and strain. The challenges are known: growing competition in the aviation sector, an increasingly challenging economic environment, exponential growth of air traffic and an increase in automation.
Yet, pilot training seems to be a field that many airlines prefer to outsource. As a result, they are increasingly losing the control over the qualifications of one of the most important safety pillars in aviation: the flightdeck crews. The fact is that pilots regularly face challenging situations in the air, such as technical faults or landing at night in heavy cross-winds. These are moments that call for fully alert, skilled, competent and well-trained pilots, able to take safety decisions within seconds.
ECA within its TLO (Training Licensing and Operations) Working Group monitors closely the training programs and EASA rulemaking activities in the training field and, in the past, was a key partner in the establishment of the new EASA Part-FCL and Part-OPS legislation that describes the whole set of pilot training and operations. ECA’s experts are also regularly members of the EASA rulemaking tasks focusing on pilot training (e.g. on CRM training, Loss of Control and Upset Prevention and Recovery training) and will continue with its active involvement in the upcoming EASA tasks. Finally, ECA is a member of the informal industry group advising the Agency on pilot training: the Aircrew Training Policy Group (ATPG).
Legislative texts about Flight Crew Licensing are very important, but one may wonder what pilot training entails in reality, whether it is sufficient, or whether the right skills have been trained. In short: What is pilot training and how can we achieve a level of proficiency necessary to operate safely?
Due to the economic and technological changes and challenges related to them, ECA is constantly looking at pilot training: shall we train pilots to understand what the plane is doing and teach them to simply “manage” it? Or shall we train pilots to be able to really fly the plane using the so-called “stick and rudder skills” used since the dawn of aviation? The answers will shape the future aviation safety. Ultimately, it must be the pilots themselves who will be part of the solution.
In 2013 ECA published the “Pilot Training Compass: Back to the Future”, gathering the expertise and insights of pilot training experts from Europe and all across the globe. The “Compass” is an open invitation to all stakeholders to have a fresh look at pilot training and to discuss with pilots what “learning to fly” really entails.
The rapidly evolving aviation operating environment requires airlines to adapt continuously to maintain the viability and relevance of their training programs. The traditional approach of curriculum construction largely influenced by what operators and regulators “think” should be trained, is however no longer effective. In addition, lack of pilot involvement contributes to these deficiencies. This is why ECA, as an association representing European pilots, has been actively following the issue. ECA is advocating for more attention to pilot training and a comprehensive approach which ensures the highest possible standards from the initial selection of candidate pilots up to recurrent training of experienced pilots.
- Executive Board Director: Tanja Harter
- Staff member: Paulina Marcickiewicz
- Working Group: Training, Licensing and Operations (TLO WG)
- Chairman: Dara Van Langen
How to become a pilot?
Some of our members have valuable information on the existing pilot training schemes in their countries. These include the length of the training, the cost, the different steps in the training and much more. For more information go to: