Economic pressures to recruit needed pilots for Part 121 operations will likely result in more rapid transition of trainees from simple to complex aircraft. For instance, a one-time endorsement for a complex aircraft only requires 5-10 hours of training with that aircraft. Current certification standards may need to be revisited in light of this phenomenon. Training curricula must provide the skills needed for command of complex, advanced aircraft.
The transition from a light single-engine training aircraft, or light twin aircraft for that matter, to the cockpit of a large commercial jet aircraft is an overwhelming challenge for any inexperienced pilot. The procedures and culture of a commercial multi-crew cockpit is completely different and new; the feel of the controls, interfacing with the automation, the complex aircraft systems, the increase of speed and accelerated pace of the flow, cockpit protocol, etc. An inexperienced pilot simply doesn’t know what he doesn’t know; the basic procedural knowledge that is absolutely crucial to effectively function in the large jet multi-crew cockpit environment.
This phenomenon is evident in proposals for Multi-Crew Pilot License (MCPL). These licenses are commercially-driven, with drastically reduced real aircraft time and increased simulation time. They also omit parts of the program such as asymmetric flight and Instrument Flight Rules flight. Furthermore, MCPLs tend to bind the applicant to a specific airline, and provide little training for advancement to pilot rank. Due to their costs, more MCPLs are being implemented, but they tend to exacerbate the deficiencies of existing training programs, and must be used cautiously.
- Failure of students to “stay ahead of the airplane” and anticipate effects of failures of basic systems supporting complex airframes
- Failure to properly execute checklists associated with complex aircraft (post-takeoff checklist, for instance)
- Failure to perform basic engine management during key phases of flight
- Failure of MCPL a single crewmember to function appropriately in the event of incapacitation of a fellow crewmember.
- At graduation, young pilots possess manual and mental flying skills that are probably as sharp as they will ever be. The sharp young pilots will be working in today’s ultra-reliable, highly automated aeroplanes, operating the same uneventful flight cycles every day – even if on different routes. Line flying does not provide the on-the-job experience that flying in classic aircraft once did, so where is the stimulus going to come from to keep their skills up to scratch?