How to keep aircrew members proficient during COVID-19 downtime?

Aviation | 31-03-21

The COVID-19 crisis has huge implications for the airline industry. Besides the financial losses, the pandemic impacts the proficiency of pilots and cabin attendants. Since the start of the pandemic, US pilots have reported making more errors inflight due to being out of practice after being grounded as part of the COVID-19 restrictions. They felt ‘rusty’ after not flying for several weeks or months. At least a dozen ‘mishaps’ were reported to the anonymous Nasa Aviation Safety Reporting (ASRA) system.

If you do not use knowledge or practice skills, then the ability to use them while performing a job declines… and fast. The COVID-19 crisis forces us to rethink training with face-to-face training being kept to a minimum. But this should never compromise the knowledge and skills of pilots, cabin attendants or ground staff. Airlines, and also aviation authorities, realize that it is now the right moment to reconsider how crew members remain proficient throughout the year. Never waste a good crisis… 

Rethink initial and recurrent training

While dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis, airlines are already preparing the return to normalcy. Scientific research showed that after a long period away from the aircraft, the ability to react quickly is better retained than the ability to act reliably. This means that aircrew members get up to speed quickly by flying the aircraft, but it is three times more likely that errors are made in doing so. And although the return to the cockpit or cabin may feel as though the last flight was only yesterday, this cannot be taken for granted when performing a safety-critical job. It’s time to rethink the training programs that are used to keep people sharp and prepared for their demanding jobs. 

Adaptive learning to reinforce and retain proficiency

COVID-19 accelerates the use of digital learning in the airline industry. It is generally expected that classroom training will not return to pre-corona levels when the pandemic ends. Simulators can only partly provide a solution, so we need other ways for aircrew members to remain proficient and qualified during the COVID-19 period. Adaptive learning can be an efficient and effective solution. Smart algorithms can identify and fix knowledge gaps for each individual pilot and crew member and help them to retain crucial knowledge continuously. Each airline employee has the right knowledge and skills to perform their jobs on the high level that is required, at any given moment.

In the case study How Air France’ cabin crew training method proved to be pandemic-proof, Franck Euzet, Cabin Crew Safety Training and Safety Pro Level Manager at Air France, explains how Air France keeps its 12,000 crew members trained and prepared for any situation during the pandemic.

Post-COVID-19 training should be continuous

COVID-19 crisis aside, proficiency training should be a continuous process, not something that you practice once a year for an exam in a simulator or classroom. The preflight safety briefing ensures that the aircrew masters all safety-related knowledge and skills, however, it’s a costly part of the business. Why check proficiency in the precious time prior to departure? Wouldn’t you favor cabin crew to demonstrate their proficiency and fix any knowledge gaps prior to coming to the airport? Modern learning technologies, like adaptive learning systems or VR and AR, support airlines and their authorities in innovating the initial and recurrent training programs. We should aim to get rid of the knowledge peak around the moment of exams. Employees should be qualified and prepared to perform their jobs at all times, resulting in a safer world, engaged employees, and satisfied authorities.

Smart digital learning tools can make learning more effective and efficient. And it can also help to cut training costs, without compromising on safety. There are several ways Drillster can help you with this. Book a call directly into our calendar via this link, no string attached of course. You can also email us at or call +31883750500 for more info.

Also read the case study: How KLM Cargo’s learning method replaced the recurrent exam, where KLM Cargo shares with us why they decided to do things differently and the results they got from it.