Professional Pilot Flight Training – what does the future hold?

Peter Moxham, one of the most influential figures in UK flight training, takes a look at the challenges currently facing the UK professional pilot training industry and what can be done about them.

I am unable to recall any time when so many issues face the UK Professional Pilot flight training world – we live in a time of great technological change with new requirements hitting the street every week and a more unstable political environment than ever.

As chair of the BBGA* Professional Flight Training Group (PFTG), it is apparent that 2019 and 2020 will go down in the history of this sector of the industry as, in the politest of terms, ‘interesting’!

I am not a politician but have been involved in the industry for in excess of 30 years and have never seen so much potential change with so little capability to see how things will end up. In BBGA we see so many challenges that it is difficult to know quite where to start.

It is some considerable time since the demand for newly qualified commercial pilots has been so high. We are in exciting times since it is some considerable time since the demand for newly qualified commercial pilots has been so high.

If all the pundits are even half right, there is the probability that demand will exceed supply by quite a margin – a positive state of affairs for the industry but the sobering thought is that there are simply insufficient potential pilot candidates to fill the demand and still maintain the required standards.

Add to this the fact that the training and examining will, within a few months, change out of all recognition as we go from the current methods to the introduction of Evidence Based Training (EBT), leading to the demise of the present examination system. This means new training and testing practices making use of the developments in technology that occur with increasing frequency – ATOs will have to adjust themselves and learn a new set of values.

On top of this we have a political climate which means that we may be forced to leave the EASA system and need to have a much changed UK CAA to manage the whole future of this sector. It may prove difficult for UK ATOs to train for EASA qualifications and therefore our markets may be restricted to those countries able and willing to accept a UK licence.

So, where do BBGA stand in all this?

It is strange to relate that we have access to all the relevant bodies at very high level and have seats on those departments and bodies that seek to bring about change yet, largely by reason of the consolidation that has taken place in the training industry, we have fewer members of PFTG than at any time in our history. I believe that this is bad for the industry since we do not have the range of views that we need, yet must develop policies to keep the UK at the front of this situation.

What can BBGA bring to the industry? Actually there is little that it is unable to help with, for example, let me name just a few initiatives which BBGA has brought about and you will find that we have been leading from the front:
Firstly, in the UK we are always in discussion with our UK CAA and have excellent relations with the team at Gatwick, but there will have to be changes if and when we exit the EU, the more so if the UK is unable to remain a member state of EASA.

Secondly, within the UK we are founder members of a recent group established in the House of Commons, known as APPG. This is a well-recognised group of MPs which seeks to make members of both Houses aware of the problems facing industry and bring about change.

Two particular issues stand out – the need to remove VAT from both training and aviation fuel used by the industry – a key requirement if we are to continue to remain competitive in the modern world; and some changes in UK planning to retain existing airfields with adequate access.

The writer succeeded in persuading EASA to establish an Advisory Board relating to all issues affecting professional pilot training

Turning to EASA, the writer succeeded in persuading EASA to establish an Advisory Board relating to all issues affecting professional pilot training, in particular to try to ensure that EASA has to consider industry as it initiates both new legislation and amend its existing rules.

As a formal part of EASA this Board is having a major effect on the EASA FCL regulations and continues to seek changes to ensure that we are in a position to retain the present standards at a time of huge technological change.

This group, known as ATPG, may be small in numbers but it covers all sections of this industry; ab-initio as well as recurrent training and testing, and has representation from across Europe from training organisations as well as airline flight training departments.

A point of interest is that the current co-chair of ATPG is the Head of Training at Ryanair, by far Europe’s leading employer of newly-qualified pilots. ATPG is tasked above all with maintaining the standards for professional pilot training and testing trying to ensure that Europe’s aviation enjoys and maintains an excellent safety record.

Having stated where BBGA stands I would ask all companies involved in professional pilot training to contribute to the future of this organisation and to be a party to ensure the future of the industry.

In early June, BBGA will be holding a workshop for ATOs, with such bodies as UK CAA, EASA, ATPG, the UK DfT in attendance – watch this space for further details. For ATOs there will be no charge to attend but attendance at the event will be limited by numbers.

Peter Moxham FRAeS
Chair BBGA PFTG,
Co-Chair EASA ATPG

* BBGA is the UK’s national trade body representing companies operating and trading in the General and Business Aviation industry.

Author: Rob Hall

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