Modern Aviation can be divided into three main categories.
Military Aviation — Combat/ logistical support including Rotary Wing.
Civil Flying — This can be divided into scheduled and non scheduled operations. This includes fixed/rotary wing airplanes.
Private Aviation including pleasure flying. The flight training in each of these categories is specifically designed to meet the requirements of the job. The training requirements are laid down by the respective regulatory authorities be it military or civil.
The military authorities specify the type, content of the training through the air staff instructions issued to their training establishments, while the civil regulators specify the requirements for each level of flight license. These requirements are regulatory authority specific and can vary with different countries for the same level of flight license issued. Military training is normally divided into three stages after the completion of the ground school. A lot of importance is given to ground subjects like aerodynamics, meteorology, navigation, general and aircraft specific technical on type to be flown.
Besides, this is in addition to other service related subjects to instill in the students qualities desirable of officers as future leaders. The first stage of training is done on a basic aircraft which is normally less technologically complex thus making it easier for the trainee to learn to do basic maneuvers. Once a certain amount of proficiency is reached, more complicated maneuvers are introduced. ‘Stalls and Spin Recovery’ techniques are taught and practiced to make the trainee fly the aircraft to its performance limits, and recover to a stabilised flight, thus instilling more confidence in handling the aircraft.Towards the end of this stage aerobatic maneuvers like aerobatics, and night flying are introduced. This further adds to the skill and confidence of the pilot in understanding the aerodynamics of the aircraft. This provides them with a risk tool to recognise the advent of ‘Stall and Spin’ and to recover in the shortest time possible:
Recognition is the key
In this stage most of the flying is on basic instruments. Emphasis is on aircraft pitch attitude supported by engine power. The trainee is sent solo only after the instructor is convinced that he or she is fully capable of recognition and recovery from ‘Stall and Spin’, and is capable of a forced landing in case of losing the engine and other emergencies. The second stage of training is conducted with a more advanced aircraft which are bigger and faster, and more complicated maneuvers like formation flying are introduced to sharpen skills. The third stage of training is role specific which is on type of aircraft the trainee is supposed to fly operationally.
Also added to the curriculum is weapon training for combat aircraft, route flying for logistical aircraft and appropriate operational training for helicopters. At all stages, progress checks are carried out by senior instructors to monitor and assess the trainees performance. In civil aviation in India ground school curriculum is laid down by the DGCA which also specifies the subjects and content. The trainees are supposed to complete classroom study and pass the examination before starting flight training. In organised flight training academies ground training is supervised. Unlike the military training, there is no time frame allotted for the ground training. Its completion is linked to the trainees passing all tests for the specified license for which they are aspiring. hours required for the license. The training includes normal circuit flying, multiple approaches and landings, and comparatively more aggressive route flying training. Because of the civil flying role, emphasis is more on route procedures, navigation skills, instrument flying, and radio telephony etc. There is comparatively less focus on maneuvers. Actual stall/spin and recovery thereof may be practiced or just discussed in theory.
Therefore the trainees may never touch the performance limits of the aircraft. This may result in nonrecognition of ‘Stall and spin’ if it happens unintentionally. Thus there is this ever present risk. Due to latest industry accidents, all regulatory authorities are thinking of making a demonstration of actual stall and recovery a mandatory requirement. On completion of the flight training, the pilot must pass the Aircraft Rating Flight check. Then the pilot is issued a license with the aircraft rating. An airline license has to be renewed every six months by passing prescribed tests and medical check. In the last three decades, the airline industry has gone through exponential expansion as well as introduction of the new aircraft with state-of-art technology. The number of crew on a flight deck has reduced from four crew members to two pilots only. This was possible due to system automation that ensures aircraft do not exceed performance limits, and other technological advances. Fly-by-wire technology has changed the air law governing flight control. The older generation of pilots had to upgrade themselves to use of these systems optimally and the new pilots had to have the requisite educational qualification to understand these concepts. Thus the airlines world over have raised the induction qualifications of the pilots.
Some prefer to recruit only those with an engineering degree. All airlines lay considerable emphasis in flight training to ensure pilots are competent for the job needing extensive use of simulators in pilot training. Another interesting aspect is that most of the military veterans from Vietnam as well as other recent air operations in the world have been rehabilitated in the airline manufacture industry as development test pilots. They have upgraded their educational qualifications and have become an important part of the system. Why them over highly qualified younger generation? Perhaps the reason is that they have done it all. They have flown aircraft to and beyond the performance limits.
They have the first hand knowledge of both sides of the fence and can help in designing new flight systems to cater for the need of future flight crew who have not been exposed to the performance limits. I started my career in the Indian Air Force in 1963. I have flown a lot many aircraft from HT2, Dakotas, C-119 to Canberras in the air force and took part in two operations. I then joined Air India and later Singapore Airlines. The journey has been a long and memorable one with no regrets. In another life I would do it again as sky has been home. — The author, an instructor and examiner, served in transport and bomber squadrons in the IAF before moving to commercial aviation