The Future of Cabin Crew Training is already here


A fully implemented Virtual Reality training suite from Airbus, American Airline’s Mobile Learning organisation … Day 1 at WATS 2016 Cabin Conference track provided refreshing insights

Sanjay Mukherjee, 20 April 2016, Orlando, Florida

Tuesday (April 19) was kind of a cool break-out day on the Cabin Crew conference at the World Aviation Training Symposium (WATS) 2016 at Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando, Florida, USA. Round conference tables (great touch because it gets people in a mingle and conversation mode), eclectic mix of cabin crew training professionals, and an array of interesting speakers who provided insights into some cool training method transition fait accompli stories from airlines.

The Cabin Crew conference track at WATS is in its 15th year – a great credit to conference moderator Jeanne LaVoy (who retired from United Airlines after a stellar career) – and it’s bigger, better and more relevant for the aviation industry. From Thomas Kaminski’s engaging presentation on how JetBlue moved from a CRM training approach to a Threat and Error Management training environment to Claire Coleman’s session on Airbus’ new integrated Virtual Reality (VR) training product suite for the A350, it was a day of discovering innovative ideas that have already come to fruition.

Thomas Kaminski (Manager, College of Inflight, JetBlue University) provided a structured look at the airline’s journey as they studied, analysed, and re-planned the training approach, the challenges and mitigations and the eventual transition into a Threat and Error Management training approach. It was a contextual, relevant and witty presentation with several analogies providing connection.

Claire Coleman (Cabin Crew Instructor, Airbus) led with a classic agenda which worked very well like an Advanced Organiser, taking the audience into the conceptual overview of various training components (virtual cabin, virtual-enabled procedures training, VR-enabled handset training, et al) back to the agenda, and then diving right in to proof-of-the-pudding examples/demos of the new training product, and so on till the end where she gave a peek into what the future version of the VR training product might look like (wearable tech in a cave-enabled VR environment; incidentally, Airbus has already implemented a VR-environment for its  A350XWB Customer Definition Centre in Hamburg). One would be excused if one missed the key point of the presentation: Airbus has already implemented a VR training approach and suite (not just a singular product) for its customers.

Trevor Dale (Director, Atrainability) made a good case for the use of videos in cabin crew training while Ivan Noel (President, Inflight Innovations Inc) provided a lot of food for thought on designing online and blended learning courseware.

The showcase for me, however, was Stephen Howell’s lively and engaging unveiling of American Airline’s Mobile Learning Organisation. The Managing Director of American’s Flight Service Standards and Training, was at his best, setting a scorching pace from the outset, getting down from the podium to the audience, and letting the airline’s training environment speak for itself. Like Airbus’s VR suite, American’s training environment is a fait accompli – they have successfully transitioned into a fully Mobile Learning environment (tablets for the 26000 crew, all instructors, operations and training on tablets, classroom, offline an online training through mobile devices, content and manuals updates, integration with LMS, and a full-blown TMS coming up very soon – the works).

It was an exciting day of sessions and here’s looking forward to Day 2 in a bit. Meanwhile, keep an eye on the Halldale WATS website – all the speaker presentations should be available online within the next two weeks.

(Sanjay Mukherjee is a writer and freelance journalist who also serves as Chief Strategy Advisor for the Peak Pacific Group)

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