Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Can Competency-Based Training Fly?: An Overview of Key Issues for Ab Initio Pilot Training

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Can Competency-Based Training Fly?: An Overview of Key Issues for Ab Initio Pilot Training

Article excerpt


According to the National Quality Council (NQC, 2009) competency is: the consistent application of knowledge and skill to the stan- dard of performance required in the workplace. It embodies the ability to transfer and apply skills and knowledge to new situations and environ- ments. It encompasses the following concepts of competencies - that they:

1. Are demonstrated to the standards required in the workplace;

2. Comprise the application of specified knowl- edge and skills relevant to that occupation;

3. Make appropriate reference to required generic and employability skills;

4. Cover all aspects of workplace performance; and

5. Can be demonstrated consistently over time, covering a sufficient range of experiences (including those in simulated or institutional environments).

Following the Australian Government's intro- duction of competency-based training (CBT) for vocational and workplace training (VET) in the late 1980's, CBT for pilot training in Australia was formally introduced in 1999 by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The main vehicle for its introduction was the CASA syl- labus for flight under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), called the DAY VFR Syllabus (CASA, 2010). The Day VFR Syllabus details the requirements for training new (ab initio) pilots towards the issue of the aeroplane private and commercial pilot licences, while flying light aircraft in mostly visual conditions by day.

While the focus of this paper is to critically review the implementation of CBT in aviation training in Australia, its main purpose is to examine how the implementation of a govern- ment-mandated training system aimed at regu- lating training can lead to unintended negative consequences for training outcomes, unless evo- lutionary progressive review and evaluation processes are implemented. Thus, the findings presented in this paper may have implications for understanding the impact of CBT in other coun- tries, where CBT is being implemented for pilot training and in other industries beyond aviation, where CBT has been adopted for the training of complex skills.

Accordingly, this paper engages broader debates over CBT in vocational education and training by critically examining the adoption and implementation of CBT in ab initio flight train- ing in Australia. It reviews the implementation of CBT policy in the context of aviation to illus- trate how mandated policies have focused prima- rily on the administration of vocational training; at the expense of appropriate training outcomes. While it is acknowledged that CBT has provided a convenient means for codifying flying skills for the purposes of standardising and regulating fly- ing instruction and assessment at the ab initio level, this paper argues that the implementation of CBT has resulted in an industry-wide ten- dency to provide training aimed at achieving minimum acceptable levels of competence in pilots, rather than excellence. There is also a ten- dency for this training to deemphasise the devel- opment of cognitive skills required for complex decision making during flight.

The paper is presented in three parts. Part one places the introduction of CBT in aviation in context by examining the broader issues relating to the adoption of CBT nationally as a training framework for the VET sector in Australia. Part two extends this discussion to examine specific issues relating to the adoption and implementa- tion of CBT in the aviation industry. Part three concludes the paper by considering alternative approaches to pilot training, which may address some of the identified weaknesses of CBT.

The adoption of CBT in Australian industry

The introduction of CBT for training in Aus- tralian industries, including aviation, has been controversial. CBT has been described as being behaviourist in nature, given its emphasis on observation and measurement of human behav- iour. Support for its methods has arisen from theorists who have argued that observation of behaviour is the most definitive method for judging performance, and, according to some, the only way to assess learning (Tennant, 1997). …

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