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Evidence Based Training

Posted 2 years 339 days ago ago by Admin

Have you heard the term “evidence based training” (EBT)?  It’s sometimes referred to as “competency based training.”  EBT is a relatively new approach to flight training developed in 2013 on behalf of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that was led by a group of airline industry experts to increase the effectiveness of pilot training to meet the challenges of airline operations in the 21st century. If the past is any indication of the future, I think we will hear more about EBT in our industry. 

Dr. Suzanne Kearns, co-author of the book Competency-Based Education in Aviation said this about the subject: “It’s time to stop teaching people to pass tests and start teaching them to become competent professionals.” 

Back in 2012, William Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation wrote:

 “For those of you not familiar with EBT, let me emphasize what a big deal this is. I have been a long and vocal critic of training standards around the world. Our (airline) training has been trapped in the 1960s and is dangerously out of date. EBT solves that once and for all. EBT is a process that will allow operators to restructure their training programs to target the real risks in the operation instead of spending all of their training time addressing the threats that existed back in the 1960s.”

In a nutshell, evidence-based training methods are practices supported by research demonstrating their success. The International Air Transport Association IATA, “Manual on Evidence Based Training” offers this definition of the concept:   

"EBT is training assesses the overall capability of a trainee across a range of competencies, rather than measuring the performance of individual events and maneuvers."

EBT trainees are taught to handle the aircraft, use appropriate automation, then manage non-normal situations that are realistic and based on evidence from past data.  

In July 2018, EASA in its “notice of proposed amendment (NPA) on evidence-based training,” gave insight into how the regulator will be focusing on the conduct of instructor training in an EBT program noting:

“The industry will see a significant ‘shift’ in the philosophy of pilot training and more significantly instructor training noting that work is foreseen in proposing rulemaking to expand EBT to operator conversion courses and initial type ratings, while expanding the EBT concept to other types of aircraft (e.g. helicopters and business jets).”   

Did they say helicopters?  Yep!

According to the first edition of the EBT training guide distributed in July 2013 by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) the aim of an EBT program is to “identify, develop and assess the competencies required by pilots in order to operate safely, effectively, and efficiently by managing the most relevant threats and errors based on evidence collected in operations during their training. While this is the objective to use this information in the airlines, the EBT concept can be used by general aviation operators as well.”


It is recognized that in today’s high-fidelity simulator environment, these very sophisticated training tools are often not used effectively mainly because regulation is biased much more towards checking and not instructing under non-test conditions. EBT seeks to redress the imbalance between training and checking because it recognizes that an assessment of competence is necessary, but once completed, pilots learn more effectively when trained by competent instructors to perform tasks and manage events measured according to a given set of behavioral indicators when not under pure test conditions.

There are three phases of a recurrent EBT module a pilot is subjected to.  Phase One is the evaluation phase where current competence of the pilot is assessed, thus identifying their training needs.  Phase two is maneuvers training to check the handling skills necessary to fly critical flight maneuvers to a defined level of proficiency. Phase three is scenario-based training where pilots manage the critical threats according to evidence then improve their competency in a learning environment to manage foreseen and unforeseen threats. 

EBT refocuses the instructor onto analysis of the root causes of unsuccessfully flown maneuvers, often using facilitation skills to help the pilot unearth the root cause themselves in order to correct inappropriate actions, rather than simply asking a pilot to repeat a maneuver with there being no real understanding as to why it was not successfully flown in the first instance. A major attribute of an instructor who will be expected to conduct a competency based training program such as EBT, is to assess their ability to accurately apply the principles of root-cause fault analysis. 

Crew resource management (CRM) training is often cited as a milestone in airline training progress and it still is.  Many of the elements of CRM are used in the evaluation of an EBT syllabus to include: communication, leadership and teamwork, problem solving and decision-making, situational awareness, and workload management to name a few. Although CRM was a watershed at the time, it is just one example of a practical application of human factors. Early CRM training set it apart as something different from technical training, but lessons learned over the six generations of CRM development have produced conventional wisdom in terms of training integration. 

How is EBT Different?

There are two important aspects of EBT that distinguish this type of training from the check-focused training of the past:   The first is core competencies – what do excellent pilots do to make things go well. This behavior is captured in the form of performance Indicators (sometimes called behavioral indicators). The core competencies are observable and measurable and include everything a pilot needs to operate safely, effectively and efficiently in today’s aviation environment.  For example they are aware of and do not exhibit any of the nine hazardous attitudes when operating or they are able to identify the 11 clues an error chain may be forming.

The second important aspect of EBT is evidence – the results from analyses of global safety and training data. The evidence ranges from normal operations monitoring (line operation safety audits) to data collected from training, accidents, and incidents.

EBT Fosters Resilience

Research has shown that another important aspect of EBT is the notion of resilience. In aviation terms, resilience is the capability of an individual or flight crew to recover and “bounce back” from a challenging situation or serious threat. EBT is fundamentally a learning concept, which significantly reduces the emphasis on checking. This training allows—and even precipitates—making mistakes in a controlled environment so as to create resilience through effective learning. I like the idea of a checkride employing a learning element rather than a tick-the-box mentality.  I think you might too. If the past is any indication of the future, I predict our industry will begin to hear more about EBT in the months and years to come. 

To learn more about EBT search for “ICAO Doc 9995,” the reference document for operators seeking to implement EBT.