Multi-crew licenses get off to a slow start

 - June 2, 2009, 11:27 AM

In the view of many airline chief pilots, the established system of professional pilot training produces pilots who– while satisfactory in a single-crew operation–need additional training in two-crew procedures before they are of use to airlines.

To address this issue, five years ago the airlines proposed that they would sponsor select trainee pilots to undertake a revised course of training that would better qualify them to take their place on the flight deck without substantive further training. With only some 60 hours of flight experience and their theory examinations completed, they would advance to a 180-hour course of simulator-based training as pilot flying and pilot not flying that was oriented to the rules and procedures of the sponsoring company.

The multi-crew pilot license was introduced in 2006. However, in spite of strong vocal support at the discussion stage, the industry has been slow to adopt the license it promoted. A probable reason for this is that a sponsoring airline will have to commit to employing the trainee. A drawback for the trainee pursuing the license is the fact that it is designed around specific company operational procedures, and an MPL holder would be restricted to flight operations with the sponsoring company.

Under normal circumstances this would not be a problem, but a group of MPL graduates flying with Danish airline Sterling found when their company went out of business that while many other companies were willing to accept their experience, the legislation then in effect made it difficult to transfer the license to another operator.

Boeing subsidiary Alteon was the first training establishment to venture into the MPL field at its Brisbane, Australia facility. Six MPL pilots for China Eastern and Xiamen airlines graduated from that program in November. In addition, British regional carrier Flybe recently contracted with Spanish-based European Flight Training to train six potential MPL holders.