It is not a secret that aviation is an industry exposed to multiple risks. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin empire, made it clear in one of his most famous quotes: “If you want to become a millionaire, start with a billion and launch a new airline.” Indeed, during its brief and intense history, air transport has been involved in numerous crises of varying depths, both economic (the 1973 oil crisis and the 2008 financial crisis) and security-related (Lockerbie and 9/11). However, the most significant historical challenge for the sector did not originate in the economic or security spheres but in the health sector. A new infectious disease, named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, dealt an unprecedented blow to the industry.
It took more than a year and a half for aviation to show clear signs of recovery. Although the road ahead remains uncertain, aviation is resolutely regaining its pulse. The days of half-empty airspace worldwide are gone, with only a handful of flights (mainly cargo and repatriation flights) taking off every hour.
Simulators, whose prominence is often related to emergency training or abnormal procedures, acquired an even more relevant role in the face of the paralysis of aviation due to the pandemic. “Pilot training is a key aspect of the profession and has played a special role in the recovery from the worst months of the pandemic. Simulator training has been key to meeting the authority’s requirements regarding maintaining our licenses, ratings, and competencies,” said Carlos Garcia Molaguero, spokesperson for Copac, the Spanish Commercial Aviation Pilots’ Association.
Transcript: «If there is one thing that is clear to all of us pilots, it is that in this profession we never stop training and, therefore, learning. Pilot training is a key aspect in our profession and has had a special role in the recovery of air activity after the worst months of the pandemic. In fact, training in simulators has been key in this sense, firstly, to comply with the requirements demanded by the authorities regarding the maintenance of our licenses and ratings, which are subject to deadlines, deadlines that, although they were relaxed during the hardest months of confinement at the beginning of the pandemic, have now been regularized. Secondly, training in simulators has allowed us to maintain our skills and abilities or as it is called, evidence-based training systems EBT, which are gradually being implemented in the environment of EASA. Undoubtedly, this training has been essential after a generalized cessation of activity especially in the air transport sector caused by the already known restrictive mobility measures imposed by governments worldwide.»
Transcript: «The continuous training of controllers includes simulator training sessions in which we have the opportunity to train our response to infrequent or exceptional situations, contingencies and emergencies that fortunately do not occur on a day-to-day basis. The use of simulators allows us to be prepared for any eventuality, to reinforce how we should act in unforeseen situations or situations that are not part of the usual routine. Moreover, in a situation of traffic reduction as anomalous as the one caused by COVID-19, it has allowed us to maintain expertise. Especially in those cases of colleagues with less experience prior to the drop in operations, it has been crucial in the training processes of new staff members, since the real traffic was much less than usual and only thanks to the simulation it has been possible to practice the operation with a similar workload to the one we will face when we reach the much desired full recovery.»
Transcript: «In the specific case of Mexico, the aviation industry was declared an essential sector from the onset of the pandemic, which helped our operations at the training center in Mexico City to stay on track as aviation activity began to recover in the country, driven primarily by low-cost airlines in the domestic market. Flight simulators were essential to drive this reactivation with the highest safety standards and it is worth noting that during the pandemic, flight simulators have been instrumental in maintaining the competencies and capabilities of aircrews to operate A320 family aircraft. And as I mentioned, both Viva Aerobus and Volaris operate 100% A320 family aircraft.»