Improved pilot training project
In July 2007 CASA approved a research project to explore the proposition that the factors delivering a zero accident rate to the RAAF might be emulated within civil aviation. Outside the unique military environment, the primary outcome would be better pilot training: and better-trained pilots are safer pilots.
A key assumption was that Air Force selection processes combined with the rigorous nature of the pilot training course to ensure that the RAAF pilot workforce comprised individuals who possessed the highest levels of “fitness” in the cognitive attributes that deliver Situation Awareness. Those attributes are defined as “the ability to maintain Situation Awareness (SA) under stress”.
Early work on the research project produced few sources and little prospect for firm conclusions (short of actual trials). Accordingly, a change was requested, to move the Project from research to development.
The project goal became: Production of Guidelines to enable flying instructors and trainee pilots to improve training/learning efficiency and effectiveness, and to embed strong accident prevention factors.
The design driver was this hypothesis: High fitness levels in the Situation Awareness attributes are not only positive safety factors; they are predictors of better success in pilot training (and, for the trainee, easier and smoother progress along the training continuum). Fitness can be determined by appraisal (using tools such as WOMBAT). Further, the attributes are competencies, so they can be improved through training. While yet hypothetical, the promise was of profound safety and training benefits.
Early drafts of the Guidelines are on the Red Flag website. Interested reviewers should start with the “Synopsis” – bearing in mind the early stage of development, and that the Guidelines are in a constant state of improvement. Also note that the Guidelines are uncompromisingly outcomes-based. That is, they are practical and “book-ended” by fitness appraisals to form a continuous cycle of personal fitness training.
From a researcher’s perspective, the exercise established useful incidental benchmarks. Academic supervision was readily accessed: In this case, Griffith University’s Associate Professor Paul Bates was unsparing of his time. CASA provided full support and funding. Senior officers showed intense interest and encouragement from the outset, and displayed open-mindedness to exploration of all related prospects for activating safety potential. Once persuaded of the safety merits of a proposal, access to support was prompt and flexibly administered. Overall, a most favourable impression of CASA’s attitudes towards safety based research was gained. I would like to sincerely thank all of the CASA staff who facilitated the Improved Pilot Training Project.
Air Force pilots prove their fitness for fast jet duties through rigorous selection and training processes. They maintain the critical cognitive competencies through continuous training. Any unimpaired person can significantly improve their levels of cognitive fitness through other forms of cognitive exercise. All pilots should energetically work on their cognitive fitness.
Situation Awareness competencies are Time Management and Information Processing. They are described in “Core Concepts part 1 and 2” on the LinkLearn Red Flag website
For more information on WOMBAT, see the Aero Innovation website – specifically Candidate Manual CS v 5.0. WOMBAT designer was the late Dr Stanley Roscoe, a US pilot and eminent aviation psychologist. WOMBAT elements were incorporated into the RAAF selection processes in the 1980s.
Please feel free to contact Doug Edwards at: firstname.lastname@example.org or: 0421 580 929