Aircraft Accidents and Ab-Initio

Ab-Initio means ‘from the beginning’. In the words of Charles Dickens, “This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the …” blog I am writing (Sorry Charles). JetBlue is about to embark on a practice that many in the Asian and European nations have been following for years, perhaps decades: an Ab-Initio program. What it means is that JetBlue will take zero-time pilot candidates and train them to be JetBlue pilots via their specially adapted Ab-Initio program. They will become full time future flight crews.
Now, to be honest, I, your modest blogger have felt a need for this in the mechanic ranks for decades myself; taking A&P certificated graduates and train them in the ways of the airline’s or Repair Station’s policies and procedures. The window for that benefit is closing; the mechanics with experience are retiring in larger numbers; the knowledge they possess will be lost forever.
Which brings me to why I have a concern about the JetBlue program. Training a group of students to become the future pilots for JetBlue will capture the best of JetBlue’s culture. But, just like with the mechanics, the experience of the past is being lost; what remains: the experience of the pilot instructors who will teach these folks will also be limited to the newest equipment, e.g. Airbus A320s and Embraer E190s – late model digital aircraft.
What will be lost is the chance to train them to fly an airplane, not to babysit an airplane that flies itself. Will these cadets be given all they need to know to fly an airliner? Will they be given all the tools they require to react to any given emergency? I would hope so, but, to be frank, I doubt it.
And that’s what we’ve come down to: training to be less than what’s required.

One thought on “Aircraft Accidents and Ab-Initio”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment here. I hate to sound like the old guys I heard when a young pilot. They thought all the new technology was making weaker pilots. It’s one of the reason I’m glad my airline’s recurrent training is stressing getting back to the basics so that while in the safety of the simulator we can practice the skills lost watching the automation do everything for us.

    It’ll be interesting in a decade to see if the industry retains its remarkable safety record with this new model of training. I hope so.

    Still, it’s the subject of a novel I’ve given some thought to.

    Good post.

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