|dc.description.abstract||The aviation industry has undergone rapid growth due to technological advancements, globalisation, and economic imperatives. In just over a decade, the Asia-Pacific region grew to become the largest air transport market in the world. In 2018, Boeing (2018) forecasted that 790,000 pilots would be required to meet air transportation demands in the next 20 years. Aviation is a rapidly expanding industry that requires continual and effective means for training pilots. This growth, however, has not always been well managed with recent accidents being attributed to reducing pilot standards within the airline industry. Consequently, the pressure is on airline training systems to ensure new pilots become effective and safe operators.
Despite the emphasis of airlines to improve their training system, little attention has been given to trainees themselves. The focus of regulatory rules and research has been on standards, training tools, and sometimes, on instructors. However, the fundamental aspects of pilots’ learning within airline training programs have received little formal examination. What is seen as desirable for an airline pilot seems to be well understood, yet how trainees become a pilot with those qualities remains unknown.
This study was an exploratory investigation to understand better the learning processes of new pilots entering the airline industry. The three concepts of curriculum theory—intended, enacted, and experienced curriculum—were used to structure the course of this research as lenses to explore the utility of training programs and illustrate the current training curriculum from different perspectives with an emphasis on trainee learning experiences. The aim was to explore how new pilots experience the training programs and some of the difficulties they encountered, specifically, how they learn to become a first officer of an airline.
Through a qualitative case study approach, extensive fieldwork was conducted at two airlines in the Tasman region. Ten pilot trainees undergoing initial first officer training were involved in the study. Three main methods of data collection were used including document reviews, interviews, and observations. Data was analysed using thematic analysis with the assistance of NVivo. The researcher followed each pilot trainee during the entire course of the program during field research as well as remotely. The complex and dynamic nature of the aviation environment required the researcher to refine the research methods and tools progressively during the study.
The findings led to the construction of a heuristic model called the First Officer Development Model (FODM) that illustrates pilot trainees’ learning during initial training. The FODM allowed the researcher to illuminate the areas trainees found important at specific stages of training. Essentially, the different iterations of the model provide a visual representation of what pilot trainees learned at specific stages of training and how they develop over the course of a training program. For example, learning aircraft type-specific knowledge was challenging for pilot trainees, especially in early phases, when they were trying to understand links within and between systems. However, as training progressed, this area of difficulty quickly reduced. Automation was a problem that evolved over the course of training. While not considered problematic in early phases of training, the ability to understand automation function, and putting it into practice in the aircraft, became increasingly difficult. Other instances of difficulty that occurred in later phases were learning and mastering procedures. Here procedures included becoming skilled at tasks (motor or verbal skills), the ability to correctly sequence tasks, their correct timing, and finally recalling or recognising a trigger to commence a task. Furthermore, the FODM assisted the researcher to view multi-crew operations differently. Here the study synthesised multi-crew to be a complex combination of procedural mastery and social skills as factors working interdependently during flight operations.
The study identified that there is a theory-practice gap between what is taught during training and what is required as part of work. The existing methods of describing learning tend to have a single person focus. While these theories were able to explain some aspects of the study’s findings, they overlook other important factors the pilot trainees need during work. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the potential contributions and limitations of the study, and direction for future research.||en_US