Alternative Training Qualification Programme - Overview
What is ATQP?
ATQP is a different way for airlines to conduct the recurrent training and testing of its pilots.
Whilst there is still a requirement for companies to revalidate licence proficiency, ATQP allows these checks to follow a format which is much less rigid than the traditional “box-ticking” methodology of assessment.
Operators can create tailored training sessions and conduct an assessment of competency using more realistic scenarios, with the emphasis very much on training. Through focusing on specific needs of fleets and groups of pilots, this targeted training can enhance performance while also reducing training costs.
ATQP allows operators to have different training programs for different fleets and operational needs. The “one size fits all” approach taken by the traditional training and testing regime is not always the most appropriate. For example, some carriers may operate purely long-haul fleets, others may operate high-frequency short-haul flights to minor or marginal airfields with challenging air traffic environments or significant environmental and terrain considerations.
The intention of the scheme was always to improve standards, knowledge and proficiency in the disciplines where they were shown to be needed. ATQP allows airlines to manage training time more effectively by conducting a task analysis of their own particular operation using evidence based data. This approach therefore allows the airline to respond more quickly to new equipment, technology or differing route structures.
Whilst some mandatory tests are still required, under ATQP additional training time is made available by performing the statutory tests, such as engine failure during take-off, once a year instead of every six months. Furthermore, the frequency of line checks and safety equipment procedures training needs only be undertaken every 2 years rather than annually. These extensions reduce unproductive classroom time and offer significant cost savings.
What are the benefits of ATQP over traditional training programmes?
There are many aspects to ATQP that are beneficial to airlines, including safety, finance and manning requirements together with numerous intangible reasons that when understood and budgeted make the decision to invest in an ATQP a “no-brainer”.
The most obvious and arguably most important benefit is that of safety, the number one priority for any airline. A phrase often quoted throughout our industry, and generally attributed to easyJet’s Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, is “If you think safety is expensive try having an accident!”. Airline Boards and Senior Managers are obliged to seriously consider any process that might contribute to safer operations. It can take years for airlines to build a good safety culture and gain a reputation for high safety standards, and moments for this status to be destroyed should a significant safety breach occur. For many airlines, the accidental loss of a hull or life or substantial injury could lead to commercial destruction. Effective management of safety risks is the ultimate money save and companies stand to benefit more from investment in safety and training than through cost-cutting.
Under ATQP, an airline’s training processes become much more melded to the company’s flight safety management system (SMS). There is obviously a requirement for these departments to collaboratively share data and knowledge, and this fact demonstrates one area where an investment in electronic data collection, mining and analysis tools are a necessity. ATQP not only allows the training department to use the task analysis to be proactive in designing training packages that manage risk (i.e. equipping crews to cope with difficult procedures or hazardous scenarios), but also allows the department to be more flexible and react rapidly with appropriate training in response to unforeseen safety issues discovered by flight data monitoring analysis and/or reported through the company’s existing SMS.
Whilst this may seem standard practice, the difference with ATQP lies in the fact the nature of the programme unties the hands of the very people who know the operation and the accompanying risks best so that they come up with the solution. Regulators can never hope to have access to the amount of data available to the airline, nor should they be expected to be able to micromanage solutions to every risk that materialises. Flying is incredibly safe, but not without risk. An unfortunate fact is that around 85% of all aircraft accidents or incidents which result in loss of life or injury or damage to property are as a result of “human error”. Sadly, controlled flight into terrain or other events where control of the aircraft has been lost accounts for almost all incidents and accidents. These incidents are thankfully exceptionally rare, but with the correct training a pilot is unlikely to ever lose control of an aircraft. With more automation comes a reduction in basic piloting skills and there needs to be greater resources allocated to this type of skills training.
Airlines using ATQP can devote time to tackle specific risks associated with their operation. For example, an airline that operates turbo-prop aircraft in cold environments will need to have a high level of training and awareness relating to airframe and engine icing and how to avoid or deal with an occurrence. A “threat” of this kind for a jet operator flying in a hot climate is almost non-existent; these pilots will be much more concerned with landing and take-off performance. Aircraft reliability and navigation systems have seen significant development over the last few decades, but sadly the frailties and limitations of the human being have evolved somewhat less quickly. Much has been done to address the limitations of the human “machine” and there is no doubt that better training techniques have played an important part in this. ATQP represents the biggest shift in improving the quality and relevance of flight training in decades.
Commercial benefits can also be attributed to ATQP. By significantly reducing frequency and duration of training, flight crew will spend less time in the classroom and more time operating online.
There is also the opportunity to make better use of expensive simulator hours. The traditional Licence Proficiency Check (LPC) is mostly unchanged under ATQP, but the time usually assigned for the Operators Proficiency Check (OPC) is now used in a way that the airline feels it will deliver the best training value.
Almost all OPC time can now be devoted to line-orientated flight training (LOFT), allowing the ability to practice and learn from real scenarios. The checking element of the OPC can take the form of a line-oriented evaluation (LOE), or a test of skills related to the operation. There is no requirement to demonstrate skills where a level of competency has been demonstrated previously by the individual or by the airline as a whole.
Aside from training that is deemed necessary to ensure a safe operation, the airline will now have the flexibility, time, resource and scope to introduce training which can include a commercial focus such as day-to-day procedures concerning efficiency, impacting on the airline’s bottom line. Procedures at airports are constantly reviewed in the name of efficiency, and pilots need to be trained to get the most benefit from these new techniques. All of these operational techniques save fuel, which for most airlines is the biggest single expense.
Another significant overhead relates directly to staff costs. By definition, Training Captains are more senior, more experienced and therefore, more expensive. By reducing the amount of checking required, airlines will be able to reduce the quantity of Training Captains needed. An airline with 500 pilots will only need to conduct 250 line checks annually compared to 500 under classic training schemes.
Intangible, human benefits can also be attributed to ATQP. The relationship between Pilots and training will increase considerably, removing the ‘fear’ that bi-annual simulator training sessions would bring on. ATQP provides an environment that is more conducive to constructive learning, thereby reducing the unimaginable stress flight crew go through when undertaking their annual training.
How do I implement ATQP?
First and foremost, you should decide if ATQP is right for your airline. If you are a UK operator, see CAP 789.
Initially, you should contact your assigned Flight Operations Inspector. You will need to conduct a task analysis of every aspect of the operation from check-in to check-out. Through this process, you will be able to identify where your existing skills are strong and where improvement is required. You will also be expected to establish a safety case to provide justification and a rationale for the programme’s structure and content, supported by data gathered from a Flight Data Monitoring system. The FOI will provide guidance, but a formal implementation plan will have to be provided.
The FOI may approve significant departures from traditional training requirements and allow you to employ innovative training and qualification concepts, however you will need to demonstrate the resulting aircrew proficiency will meet or exceed the proficiency obtainable through a traditional programme.
The whole ATQP process is likely to take more than two years from first application to implementation. This is driven by the required FDM and training records input over a suitable period. Most airlines will have FDM data covering many years, but few operators will have reliable data about training performance. Paper training records are notoriously bad for extracting reliable data and thus as soon as possible it is essential to deploy electronic record keeping that allows this analysis to take place. For as long as the ATQP is in place a system of feedback from the training records system will also be required. Airlines with multiple fleets might decide to introduce the scheme fleet by fleet.
As with all economies of scale, it’s true to say that the bigger the airline the greater the potential benefit. ATQP is essentially a process and one which is identical if you have one aircraft or a hundred. If you believe that ATQP will help you to manage safety, then you must give it serious consideration.