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Sat, Jan 27, 2007

Alteon Begins First 'Multi-Crew Pilot License' Class, Part Two

Training Program Aims To Put FO's In Right Seat Faster

By ANN Associate Editor Mark Sletten

Yesterday, in part one of this two-part series, we told you flight training expert Alteon has begun a Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) training program in Brisbane, Australia. In this conclusion, we'll describe in-depth just how Alteon plans to complete training for its six MPL cadets.

Alteon has created a four-phase program for its beta class. The phases are: Core, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced, and Bell says they "provide a more streamlined path from the street to the seat."

In the Core phase, cadets get their introduction to flight. Alteon will use a combination of flight training using Diamond DA40s and a full daylight visual DA40-based flight training device (FTD).

You may be asking yourself why Alteon is using a four-seater. Bell states in the Core phase, students will fly as one of three positions in the DA40: pilot flying, pilot monitoring and pilot observing, or safety officer. The first two represent the traditional pilot/co-pilot flight crew, and each performs all the traditional duties thereof.

The pilot observing is responsible for what Bell calls "threat and error management." Bell says the observer will document the crew's activity and lead the debrief following the training flight.

If you've ever sat in an aircraft in which another pilot is receiving flight training, you will immediately understand the value of the idea of a pilot observer. Removing all responsibility to manipulate controls, interact with air traffic control and manage systems makes it much easier to think about the larger picture. An observer can more easily see how a seemingly small action (or inaction) in one phase of a flight can cause big problems with another -- some call it situational awareness. Alteon believes this approach will allow it to inculcate an understanding and appreciation of the intrinsic value of situational awareness in much less time.

Cadets will follow the same training format in the DA40 FTD for the ground-based training. In the Basic phase, cadets will increase the complexity of the training including such activities as instrument flight. Alteon intends to stick with the same equipment and format, with cadets fulfilling the same three positions for flight and simulator training.

Bell says in the first two phases, cadets will accumulate approximately 100 hours of logged flight time -- some as pilot flying, some as pilot monitoring. Initial plans call for some 64 hours as pilot flying. cadets will fly 34 flights in the Core phase and 17 in Basic. They'll rotate among the three positions for each flight, spending approximately 1.25 hours in each. By the end of the first two phases, including time logged in all three positions, each cadet will have spent 200 hours in the aircraft.

Similarly, for the FTD-based training, cadets will rotate among the three positions, gaining some 130 total hours and logging 44.

For the Intermediate phase, cadets will graduate to multi-engine training using a level-five, fixed-base, next-generation 737 flight simulator. Training during this phase will be crew and line oriented.

Advanced cadets will move on to training in the specific aircraft -- airliner, bizjet, etc. -- they will fly for their airline. Bell equates the Advanced phase to type-certificate training here in the US.

Bell says all of Alteon's first six cadets will end up flying 737s for their respective airlines, so their advanced training will continue in its 737 simulator in Brisbane.

After they complete training with Alteon, they'll get airline orientation training from their respective airlines -- abbreviated of course, since all their training to date will have been crew oriented -- get 12 takeoffs and landings in a 737, then they'll hit the line flying passengers... under the supervision of an experienced captain of course, just like any other new first officer.

An important part of the MCL program for Alteon is close communication with its airline customers, Bell says. The ICAO has requested airlines keep careful records to document the progress and experience of MPL pilots to allow for a comparison of their performance compared to traditionally trained pilots. Bell states Alteon would have taken this step anyway, even if ICAO hadn't requested it.

Alteon states the European Union's Joint Aviation Authorities/European Aviation Safety Agency (JAA/EASA) has already rewritten its regulatory language to account for the MPL, although none of its member nations has enacted an MPL program as yet. Bell told ANN Germany, Singapore and the UK are all in the process of making the necessary regulatory changes to adopt the standard.

We asked how many countries are planning to accept the MPL, and she said even the ICAO can't answer that. "Dozens and dozens of countries have expressed interest in our MPL training," said Bell. "Most are waiting to see how our beta group does."

Bell noted that while the ICAO outlines MPL qualification standards, they are minimum standards; each country may adopt higher qualification standards if they wish. For the six cadets training in Australia (even though Australia hasn't officially adopted the MPL as of yet, it's one of the countries making the necessary regulatory changes) the country's Civil Aviation Safety Authority has requested each cadet acquire ten hours of solo flight time -- something not required by the ICAO MPL standard.

ANN asked if Bell she's heard anything through the grapevine regarding a possible US MPL, or some form of it.

"I know the US had representation on the ICAO committee that developed the standard," said Bell, "but the MPL is aimed primarily at countries whose aviation infrastructure can't supply enough pilots. The training infrastructure in the US provides more than enough pilots for the country's needs. Until that changes I don't see it happening here."

Whatever happens, you can be sure if the MPL is adopted here... any training program developed to support it will benefit from Alteon's pioneering effort in Australia.

FMI: www.alteontraining.com, www.icao.int

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