Paris Air Show

Airbus spells out A380 training culture

 - December 13, 2006, 7:28 AM

“Safety is not a book, not software; it’s a culture,” said Airbus training and flight operations support and services vice president Jean-Michel Roy, describing new flight- and ground-training systems introduced with the new A380 very large airliner. The latest Airbus inherits many characteristics of the established A320/A330/A340 fly-by-wire (FBW) models.

In the A380 cockpit, Roy said, Airbus faced three possible situations: “We change nothing; we keep systems but add functions; or we use available technology with improved interactivity.” As the design developed, all three scenarios materialized.

FBW controls and non-back-driven thrust levers for engine power settings are unchanged, but the larger panel has permitted bigger primary flight instruments, said Roy. “We have taken the existing display and added slat and flap information and any flight envelope limitations.” Likewise, the navigation display has gained a third dimension with a vertical display providing glideslope information. Embracing new technology, the designers have incorporated interactivity. For example, the flight management system sports a flat screen, multifunction display and keyboard, and cursor control units are controlled by a mouse.

Airbus has not restrictedhanges to aircraft hardware. “We also must train with new technologies,” said Roy, who argued that better navigation and in-flight protection against bad weather, terrain obstructions and other traffic improve both safety and efficiency.

Acknowledging progress with full-flight simulators and computer-based training (CBT), Airbus is introducing maintenance and flight training devices (MFTDs) to “bring the whole aircraft into the classroom,” with crews and mechanics benefiting from active learning and competence-focused training.

For pilots, Airbus has validated an A380 transition course, which since last September it has applied to its other existing FBW types. The development continues the manufacturer’s philosophy of reducing training time and costs through cross-crew training, since the tri-module A380 course is much longer for crews without Airbus FBW experience. The course comprises a 15-day curriculum, combining CBT-based aircraft-systems theory with 42 hours of MFTD-based operational procedures training, and 10 days/40 hours of simulator-based flight-maneuvers instruction. For example, Boeing 747 pilots would require 25 days’ training, but crews with Airbus FBW experience would need only 13 days because of established cross-crew qualification procedures.

Nevertheless, this is longer than the seven days typically devoted to single- to twin-aisle Airbus FBW transition, and the much shorter two/three-day transition between twin-aisle types. All A320-series aircraft share a single type rating, as do the A330 family and the A340 variants. Roy said training cost reductions accrue over time and apply in both directions, since tomorrow’s A380 copilots will probably be A320 or A330 captains “the day after tomorrow.”

The manufacturer has adopted a very similar structure formaintenance personnel with new modular Airbus active-learning and competence-focused training. Modules such as three-day new-technologies introduction and five-day general familiarization courses use CBT, while others–like avionics, airframe and powerplant over 12 to 14 days each–use two- and three-dimensional MFTDs.

Since the MFTD is common equipment for pilot and maintenance technician training, Airbus claims the resultant synergy provides airlines with better safety and efficiency, as well as cost savings, because training on the aircraft can be reduced to around five days. “An aircraft is meant to fly, to bring revenues, not to stay on the ground for training, and this is especially true for the A380,” said Roy. Currently, Airbus is developing cross-maintenance qualification to apply the maximum benefit of family concepts to maintenance.

Finally, Airbus is providing an A380 cabin crew familiarization course, based on the same transition structure. Aircraft systems will be taught with CBT, procedures instruction will involve a dedicated flight-attendant panel trainer and practical exercises will employ a cabin emergency-evacuation trainer. Since the A380 cabin is “quite specific,” Roy said that no cross crew qualifications will be available.

He foresees this Airbus training gradually permeating throughout an airline. “We must train the trainers to transfer our knowledge about systems, procedures and performance. This will cascade to pilots, cabin crew, dispatchers and maintenance engineers through documentary units, performance programs and software packages direct from our design office to improve realism and quality of simulations.”

A new training center is being built in Toulouse, the first A380-dedicated phase becoming operational this month. The center will hold two CAE simulators, the first of which is being installed in mid-2005 for use alongside the A380 flight-test program as Airbus prepares to provide customer training ahead of initial aircraft deliveries.

CAE has delivered the first two of eight MFTDs that will be used for procedural training. Germany’s TFC will provide the cabin-evacuation trainer, which is to be delivered before October this year. This full-scale A380 mockup is the biggest cabin trainer ever built, according to Roy. Other Airbus units in China, Germany and the U.S. are taking part in A380 training developments.