Progress is a nice word.
But change is its motivator.
And change has its enemies.

Robert Kennedy


The assessment process is a vital component of any training course because:

a. It chronicles progress through the course.

b. It identifies the positive and negative aspects of the trainee’s performance.

c. Facilitates continuity of training following an instructor change.

There are a number of ways we can measure progress:

  1. During the training – the reader of the Sortie Report needs to understand what manoeuvres/procedures were taught and if progress towards the required standard was either ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’ as measured against the guidance in the Instructor’s Handbook.
  2. At the end of the course the assessment of performance is usually a ‘tick-box’ process called variously a Licence Skill Test, (LSK) a Licence Proficiency Check, (LPC), or Operational Proficiency Check, (OPC). These tests and checks are usually made up of a series of generic tasks/manoeuvres/procedures and invite the trainee to perform them once they have been taught and demonstrated to a satisfactory standard. An oral examination may also be included.

Unfortunately, the ‘Tick-Box’ process is inflexible and ‘binary’. The result is either ‘pass’ (tick) or ‘fail’ (no tick). Some jurisdictions make allowances for a partial pass. The content of the test is well known so it is possible for the candidate to practice and practice and practice until on one day, the day of the test, he can demonstrate the required performance and pass. He may receive the award of a rating but there will be those who have achieved the required standard because they practiced hard. It does not mean that they understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. Understanding, is however, at the very heart of competency.

I submit that we in the helicopter industry are similarly bereft of a meaningful training and testing regime.  We have created a pale imitation of the Fixed Wing world. Pale in the sense that whilst the content may relevant to a degree there is much that is left out.

We can rectify this if we use a regime more closely related to the role in which the pilot will be working. We can do this by, for example, creating a flight scenario that includes the essential elements of the tasks the trainee will be expected to perform in real life including emergencies and/or malfunctions.

A new skill has been added to those required of the professional pilot – ‘Resilience’.

Resilience recognises the fact that complex aircraft will occasionally deliver situations – system failures or malfunctions that are not covered in the aircraft manuals. To be of any value these must be put into context via the scenario training recommended earlier.

Yet another problem area is the scoring system used to assess a trainee.  This area of education has been analysed a lot by the academics and most favour a system with an even number of categories as this avoids the trap of scoring everyone in the middle category. If an odd number is used then the score in the middle needs two ‘sub-sections’ – Hi and LO. That way it is still possible to keep the course on target but allow the instructor to indicate that whilst the score was ‘acceptable’ it was either marginal or truly within the ‘acceptable’ bracket.

I have spent many years working with a 5-point system with the central score representing ‘acceptable’. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to read Sortie Reports that all appear to score every manoeuvre as acceptable only for me to find that the previous instructor(s) were a trifle generous in their scoring.

Once again we come up against the need for change but as the quote by Robert Kennedy indicates, change has its enemies.