By Randy Mains

Have you heard the term “evidence-based training” (EBT)? It’s sometimes referred to as “competency-based training.”

EBT is a relatively new approach to flight training developed in 2013 on behalf of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A group of airline industry experts created it to increase the effectiveness of pilot training to meet the 21st century challenges of airline operations.

If the past is any indication of the future, I think we will hear more about EBT in our industry.

Suzanne Kearns, co-author of the book “Competency-Based Education in Aviation,” said this about the subject: “It’s time to stop teaching people to pass tests and start teaching them to become competent professionals.”

Flight Safety Foundation President William Voss wrote back in 2012, “For those of you not familiar with EBT, let me emphasize what a big deal this is. I have been a long and vocal critic of training standards around the world. Our (airline) training has been trapped in the 1960s and is dangerously out of date. EBT solves that once and for all. EBT is a process that will allow operators to restructure their training programs to target the real risks in the operation instead of spending all of their training time addressing the threats that existed back in the 1960s.”

In a nutshell, evidence-based training methods are practices supported by research that demonstrates their success.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) “Manual on Evidence-Based Training” offers this definition of the concept: “EBT is training that assesses the overall capability of a trainee across a range of competencies, rather than measuring the performance of individual events and maneuvers.”

EBT trainees are taught to handle the aircraft, use appropriate automation, then manage abnormal situations that are realistic and based on evidence from past data.

In July 2018, EASA in its “Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) on Evidence-Based Training” gave insight into how the regulator will be focusing on the conduct of instructor training in an EBT program: “Further work is foreseen in proposing rulemaking to expand EBT to operator conversion courses and initial type ratings, while expanding the EBT concept to other types of aircraft (e.g. helicopters and business jets).”

Did they say helicopters? Yep!

According to the first edition of the EBT training guide distributed in July 2013 by the IATA, the aim of an EBT program is to “identify, develop and assess the competencies required

10 Mar/Apr 2021

by pilots in order to operate safely, effectively, and efficiently by managing the most relevant threats and errors based on evidence collected in operations during their training. While this is the objective to use this information in the airlines, the EBT concept can be used by general aviation operators as well.”

EBT benefits

It is recognized that in today’s high-fidelity simulator environment, these sophisticated training tools are often not used effectively, mainly because regulation is biased much more towards checking and not instructing under non-test conditions.

EBT seeks to redress the imbalance between training and checking. It recognizes that an assessment of competence is necessary, but once completed, pilots learn more effectively when competent instructors train them to perform tasks and manage events according to a given set of behavioral indicators.

Pilots are subjected to three phases of a recurrent EBT module. Phase One is the evaluation phase to assess current competence of the pilot, thus identifying their training needs. Phase two is maneuvers training to check the handling skills necessary to fly critical flight maneuvers to a defined level of proficiency. Phase three is scenario-based training where pilots manage critical threats according to evidence, then improve their competency in a learning environment to manage foreseen and unforeseen threats.

EBT refocuses the instructor onto analysis of the root causes of unsuccessfully flown maneuvers. It often uses facilitation skills to help the pilot unearth the root causes on their own so they correct inappropriate actions, rather than simply asking a pilot to repeat a maneuver without understanding why it was not successfully flown in the first instance. A major attribute of an instructor who will be expected to conduct a competency- based training program such as EBT is to assess their ability to accurately apply the principles of root-cause fault analysis.

Crew resource management (CRM) training is often cited as a milestone in airline training progress and it still is. Many of the elements of CRM are used in the evaluation of an EBT syllabus including communication, leadership and teamwork, problem-solving and decision-making, situational awareness and workload management to name a few.

Although CRM was a watershed at the time, it is just one example of a practical application of human factors. Early CRM training set it apart as something different from technical training, but lessons learned over the six generations of CRM development have produced conventional wisdom in terms of training integration.

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