Future Singapore Airlines (SIA) cadet pilots can expect to graduate in two years instead of three, and with skills that should better prepare them for actual flight operations.
The airline has carried out a detailed study on a new multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) programme and is now preparing for a field test.
Unlike the conventional training method, the new teaching programme focuses on simulator experience and multi-crew operations, instead of solo flying.
The plan is for the bulk of the training to be done in Singapore, instead of at SIA's facilities in Australia where cadets currently spend much of their time.
The field test will start soon and involve up to eight new SIA cadets. Those already being trained will not be affected.
SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides told The Straits Times: "As cadets are immersed early on into the airline environment, the training provided is more airline specific, equipping cadets with the relevant skills to operate in the cockpit of a multi-crew airliner."
Currently, cadets who graduate from the flight academy need to be trained in multi-crew cooperation skills before moving to the aircraft they will be flying.
It takes about three years for the full training to be completed.
SIA is proposing a 24-month plan for its new training programme which must first be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. A spokesman said it is reviewing details of SIA's trial.
So far, budget carrier Tigerair is the only Singapore airline to have been given the green light to conduct multi-crew pilot licence training.
Approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in 2006, the new programme is backed by global carriers represented by the International Air Transport Association.
More time spent in flight simulators, and on equipping trainees with interpersonal and communication skills, better prepares them to operate in a multi-crew environment, experts say.
They believe that simulators allowing airlines to put their trainee pilots through many different incidents and scenarios are also more relevant to commercial flying than hours spent in a single-pilot plane.
Captain Mok Hin Choon, president of the Air Line Pilots Association - Singapore, said that while total training time will be cut, he is certain SIA will work closely with the regulator to ensure that safety and other standards are met.
Calling it a step in the right direction, he said: "It makes sense to get trainees accustomed to teamwork and the dynamics of two-man operations instead of a focus on solo flying, the relevance of which in commercial aircraft operations may be questionable."
This article was first published on July 17, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.