Airline Training: Advanced Qualification Program Becoming Standard

A-320 Flight Deck

A-320 Flight Deck

The airline training philosophy has changed in the last five to ten years.  Emphasis on Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) has led to the creation of Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) scenario based simulator training.  The more traditional FAR Part 121 training was specific about the items to be covered in a simulator session.  Precession and non-precession approaches, emergency procedures, wind shear and terrain avoidance maneuvers were the main items to be demonstrated.  The only variation a pilot might see is the airport location programmed into the simulator.  AQP, as mentioned before, is scenario based training where the flight crew is expected to work as team handling situations as they come up.  This provides a more realistic training experience that is closer to the line flying that crews do every day.

Within AQP, all the typical training situations are covered.  These include:

• Initial Training:
• Recurrent Training:
• Transition Training:
• Upgrade Training:
• Re-qualification Training:

If nothing else, AQP has created a whole new set of acronyms, as if aviation didn’t have enough already.  For instance, Recurrent Training is known as Continuing Qualification Training (CQT).  A flight crewmember is required to attend CQT once every 12 calendar months.  It is three days in length consisting of one day of general subjects and aircraft systems ground school and two days of simulator training.

CQT Day One

The structure of the CQT ground school is completely different than the Part 121 ground schools that I was used to.  Before, there would typical be twenty to thirty pilots attending and the emphasis was aircraft systems and operating procedures.  Although we still cover these subjects, more time is spent discussing situations and scenarios based on data collected from the preceding 12 months of line flying.  For instance, the training department might have recognized that there was an increase in altitude deviations.  The procedures for accepting, setting, and verifying a clearance to climb or descend would be a topic of discussion that year.  The concept enhances learning since subjects change year to year.

Day Two Simulator

Day two of CQT brings day one of simulator training.  Called Special Purpose Operational Training (SPOT), it also is designed to emphasize problem areas discovered from the line flying data.  In the past, simulator sessions were conducted in real time and concentrated at one particular airport.  Most of the required maneuvers were demonstrated at that simulated airport.  With SPOT training, we see short five to ten minute scenarios that are conducted at different airports in the U S and around the world.  Upon completing a SPOT, the instructor will take control of the simulator and reposition for the next maneuver.  Crew coordination and communication are the keys to success during the SPOT training.

Day Three Simulator

On day three of CQT, day two of simulator training, we receive what amounts to our annual check ride.  In the old training system we called this the Proficiency Check (PC).  Now it is called Continuing Qualification Line Operational Evaluation (CLO).  The CLO consists of a two leg simulated line flight.  The first leg is the Captain’s and second leg is the First Officer’s.  We are expected to treat this as if we had passengers on board.  We receive a flight release and clearance just like on the line.  All flows, checklists, and briefings are completed.  At some point in each leg, we are given a system malfunction and evaluated on how well we handle the situation using our CRM. The second leg usually ends with a diversion to an alternate airport.

I will admit that is has taken me a few years to get used to this new method of training.  As pilots, we are very resistant to change.  The AQP training does create a more relaxed atmosphere, which enhances learning.  In my humble opinion, that is a very good thing.

This article was written by Michael Moore, an A-320 Captain, aviation writer, and first time contributor to  You can follow him on Twitter @michaelflies or find his blog at

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