Not for nothing is the training branch of Airbus designated the Airbus Training & Flight Operations Support and Services Division. This reflects the recognition that a holistic approach to training and day-to-day operations is critical to the safe and efficient operation of the fleet. Training in new technologies and procedures for the A380 has served as a catalyst for revision of the Airbus training methodology and, where appropriate, is already being integrated into training programmes for the rest of the Airbus fleet.
A380 Introduction to New Technology
This is aimed at all those who will work on or in the A380, whether in a 'hands on' or managerial role. It introduces an array of new elements: Glare - the aluminium/composite material for the upper and side fuselage, the 5,000psi hydraulic system, the remote control circuit breaker, solid state power controls and so on. These are presented in a four-hour CD-ROM format as a background module before a specialised course is undertaken. Not only does this course serve as an introduction to one's own discipline, it is also a common reference and thus serves to facilitate better understanding of the tasks of other people involved in the operation of the aircraft.
The basic role of cabin crew does not change: the focus will always be on safety. While the fundamentals are understood, the question that still looms large is just how effectively the regulatory requirements for emergency evacuation will be met? In airline service it is planned that the decision to evacuate will rest with the cockpit crew, but the chief purser will oversee the evacuation of both decks, with the crews on each deck responsible for their deck. The principle should be proved during a drill, observed by representatives from JAA, FAA and the Department of Transport, Canada, which will be carried out with the fourth A380 during outfitting at the Hamburg Finkenwerder plant.
A significant development on the A380 is the onboard information system (OIS). Although this has a primary design function of intuitive operation, it naturally requires training in its use to help the cabin crew acquire essential additional IT skills. This system will have one domain exclusively dedicated to supporting cabin crew tasks, including cabin operations such as verification of door status and, where fitted, activation of tele-medicine capability and operation of cabin surveillance systems.
The second domain is support of passenger services. The increasing demands and choices available to the in-flight entertainment (IFE) will be monitored and controlled. Customer expectations are constantly growing and, on long-haul flights especially, the IFE will become increasingly complex as it integrates new technologies and capabilities into the suite of options available, including for instance, access to good telecommunications. Each of these new features will require that the cabin crew understands and can operate the IFE competently to match these increasing customer demands.
Changes for the maintenance crews are two-fold: new materials and techniques must be explained; and there also needs to be training in the philosophy and procedures of the new software and systems. These are addressed separately, initially through a new technologies course, and then to the specialist skills required. These skills are also addressed in varying depths, dependent on the maintenance task. All courses include the mandatory regulatory responsibilities and examinations appropriate to that task.
The new technologies course (four days) upgrades technical knowledge before the type rating course, provides familiarisation for specific safety needs and enables skills acquisition for specific tooling and procedures. The one-week Level 1 general familiarisation course covers the major systems. As with the other levels, each subject is led by an instructor who is a specialist in that discipline, and at this level the training tool is presently computer aided instruction (CAT); Web Based Training will be available in future.
Level 2 is the ramp and transit course. It follows on from the Level 1 course and lasts for two weeks. It covers all tasks required for ramp operation, including inspections and power-up, arrival/departure tasks and so on. Level 3 course follows the first two, and is planned to last a total of four weeks. It focuses on line and base maintenance skills. The drivers behind each of these packages are based on direct application of the theory through using task-based learning scenarios on the you-do-it, you-learn-it principle. The maintenance flight training device (MFTD) is introduced early on as the primary instructional tool.
At first sight it is surprising that, of all the features of the A380 which require specific flight crew training, the one with the least impact is the physical size of the machine. While it is obviously bigger than any of its predecessors, the issues of increased dimension and weight are more than compensated for by the harmonisation of handling and operating procedures with existing Airbus aircraft. To the pilot there will be no radical change of 'feel' as the software will give protection in the flight envelope and the facility of both external imaging to facilitate ground handling. The Thales on-board airport navigation system (OANS) makes handling in all dimensions straightforward.
The existing 'less paper cockpit' (LPC) of other Airbus aircraft has been taken a step further in the A380, as the logical extension of that philosophy into a more efficient platform. To operating crews the most immediate visual impact is in the flight deck, where the integration of a desk with a keyboard and pointing device most clearly signals the change in role of the pilot as information manager. Early trials revealed that flight crews adapted quickly to the functionalities which allow rapid consultation of all information sources. From his seat the pilot can access all take-off data, and both flight plans and charts can be displayed. The open architecture of the software will facilitate integration of real time weather information and gatelink technology as these and other capabilities become available.
Another significant change is the replacement of the multi-purpose control and display unit (MCDU) by multi-function displays (MFD), whereby the pilot interfaces with the flight management system (FMS) through a dedicated trackball and small keyboard on the pedestal. The training package therefore places considerable focus on the new skill of using the keyboard and trackball to manipulate the inputs directly on to the MFD and the navigation display. The aircraft can thus be directly guided with these controls.
The primary platform for training the skills needed for competent and confident operation of this new tool is the maintenance/flight training device (M/FTD). Exact duplication of the functionality of the aircraft systems, coupled with the ancillary display to show in detail what the effect of keyboard and trackball selections is on those systems, allows the crew to gain knowledge and confidence to bring them to the required level of proficiency. Once thorough understanding of the systems and their operation is complete, crews move to the full flight simulator (the first A380 FFS will be installed by CAE at the Airbus training facility in Toulouse in May 2005 ) to complete type rating.
An interesting facet of the A380 training programme has been the integration of human factors considerations from the design stage through training disciplines. This has not simply been to respond to the regulatory requirements, particularly under JAR, where type specific HF qualifications are mandatory, but also to recognise that such skills are fundamental to the quest to improve safety and commercial success. While the imperative of safety has long been established, the importance of ensuring reasonable working conditions for the whole range of teams working on the aircraft has been recognised. Training includes HF techniques to allow better understanding of this aspect and consequently to improve working conditions as far as possible. For instance, in learning to cope better with fatigue there is less chance of people injuring themselves or damaging equipment, all of which are undesirable and which incur delay and cost.
Training tasks in support of the A380 embrace a huge range of disciplines and techniques; nothing has been taken for granted. However, there is also recognition that it is not a static process. As the aircraft enters service there will certainly be some modification to training as operating experience is fed back from the airlines. But there is no doubt that the programme is getting off to a very strong start.