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Advanced Qualifications Program

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Advanced Qualifications Program

Human Factors


The Advanced Qualifications Program was implemented by the FAA in response to new demanding technology being implemented throughout aviation and the rise of accidents involving crew coordination and human error. This paper explains the concept of the Advanced Qualifications Program developed by the FAA in the early nineties. This paper gives a historical background of the programs development and implementation throughout the aviation industry. Along with this background an explanation of the benefits of the advanced qualifications program along with the differences between the AQP and the original way that airline pilots were trained and checked are included.


In 1987 the Federal Aviation Administration started a review to determine if there were better ways to train airline pilots (Better 1993). The feeling of this time was that the current method of training and checking was not incorporating some of the key factors that are involved in cockpit situations that pilots deal with in everyday situations. This kind of thinking was revolutionary at the time, a time in which the status quo for training involved mostly the overall number of hours of flight time accumulated and pilot skill based checks. With increasing accidents that were determined to be a result of pilot error the Federal Aviation Administration (or FAA) determined that something had to be improved throughout the industry in the way that pilots and airplane crews are trained and checked. Through this review came the idea of developing a new program called the Advanced Qualifications Program which incorporated these new thoughts and ideas.

At the time of inception the current training and checking procedures involved more traditional check ride exercises, hours accumulation, and evaluation. This was a proficient method of testing the overall pilots flying skills in an airline but did not take into account personal and interpersonal factors involved in flying. A pilot can build up a considerable amount of flying time while not being involved in a functional crew environment. When this pilot is then thrown into a crew setting, where pilots and other crew members have to be able to interact with each other in a way that is efficient and safe, then they will be underprepared to deal with this type of a situation. Check ride type skill checks were also a very prominent way that airlines would test there pilots in order to determine if the pilot could efficiently and safely operate their assigned aircraft. This method was also found to be underachieving because it simply took into account the individual pilot’s ability to fly the airplane and did not focus on interaction between the different crew members and how this affects different situations. Obviously something had to change and training methods had to be updated. (Tailored 1992)

Out of this obvious lack of efficient training came the FAA’s solution called advanced qualifications program. This program took these deficiencies into account and used the growing knowledge of crew communication and coordination problems to ensure better training throughout the industry. Although this program was found to be more expensive for the government at first, it was thought that the benefits outweighed the risks and that better training for dispatchers, smoother flowing cockpit management, and up to date instruction for check airmen was worth the initial extra costs.(Ott 1990) The manager of the FAA’s transportation division initially summed up the program as follows, “It provides for a voluntary alternative method for airlines to train, certificate and evaluate their crewmembers, aircraft dispatchers, instructors and check airmen,” said David Catey (Ott 1990) The program was initially modeled after a United States Air Force program called Instructional Systems Development which was a proven program.

The AQP program allows airlines to make changes in their training procedures set forth in the regulations and incorporate more cockpit resource management (Ott 1990). This change at an airline has the largest affect on the pilot training department. The program is available for implementation by major airlines, national airlines, and regional or commuter airlines (Ott 1990). AQP allows for a big chunk of the training to be done in flight simulators or computer based training facilities which can be more cost effective for airlines (Ott 1990)

The increase in the number of flight simulators available to train pilots made it much more convenient and economical for airlines to introduce this new concept of crew interaction training or what came to be called crew resource management (or CRM) to their pilots. Delta has always been known as an airline which strives to be a leader in the airline industry. Because of this they have in a way led the airline industry in acquiring these simulators or flight training devices (FTD’s). With time came improvement to these simulators eventually leading to flight management system trainers which made it easier and more realistic for crew resource management training in an actual cockpit environment. Delta has found that these training devices, while being very efficient at training pilots, also decrease costs and save the airline money. “A very thorough training-analysis process must be completed in order for AQP to be successful,” says the system manager of ground training for Delta Airlines, “We feel the same is true for effective integration of training- devise technology. We must ask ourselves: вЂ?What technology can accomplish the training objective in the most efficient and cost-effective manner?вЂ™Ð²Ð‚Ñœ he added. Delta has found an answer to this question of the best method to integrate AQP in training in its flight simulators. (Simulator 1993)

The biggest result of implementing the advanced qualifications program will be the refocus from individual pilot’s flight hours and ratings to their actual determined proficiency in the airplane. “All aviation training to date has been time-based. All certifications are based on the number of hours of training pursued by a pilot,” said Rohit Patel, the assistant vice president of an aviation company that provides technology based training programs (Ott 1990). This new program will change this concept completely. Patel goes on to explain the theory that pilots can spend so much time working on developing skills for a certain


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