Aeroflot implements new approach to developing pilots’ professional competencies

Flight crew training – the paradigm shift

Evidence Based Training (EBT) at Aeroflot :: Aeroflot

Technical advances in aerospace industry through decades have led to a tectonic shift in the way crew interacts with equipment. Automation and digitalization of onboard systems have just sealed the fact that technology has finally outperformed humans in reliability. It has become evident, that further strife for improving aviation safety must inevitably shift focus to crew competences.

Until fairly recently, technical competences were considered as a self-sufficient basis of pilot’s professionalism. However, aviation events statistical data indicates – the outcome of an incident depends not only on technical skills, but primarily on the crew’s abilities to use these skills adequately to the situation. Teamwork required to make and carry out best decisions based on enhanced situational awareness has become just as important as drilling procedures for system failures. This understanding has urged a paradigm shift in approaches to crew training.

In 2013 ICAO formulated the new concept called Evidence Based Training (EBT). Since 2018 Aeroflot has been steadily adapting and implementing the new principles into its flight crew training practices. The airline’s flight director Eduard Sovetkin shed some light on the topic in a recent interview published in corporate magazine My Aeroflot.

:: Aeroflot

The concept of the classic simulator training, which every pilot must undergo every six months, hasn’t changed for decades. It is centered on drilling certain procedures applicable for a set variety of situations associated with aircraft system failures. However, with aircraft and its engines’ reliability steadily improving, the likelihood of serious failures has significantly reduced. However, it has become crystal clear that it is impossible to forecast all probable scenarios of aviation events, since the complexity of aviation industry is continuously increasing, and the unique combination of factors that lead to an incident in every particular case is hard to reproduce. So, the classic approach to pilot training, which ignores both actual relevance of this type of training for a particular pilot with his / her set of competencies – and the actual level of these competencies – has become outdated.

“The new approach, which is called Evidence Based Training (EBT), is focused towards developing a pilot training program, which is tailored to his / her needs based on actual flight data, incident statistics, audit conclusions, training records etc. All of this is aimed at identifying and developing pilot’s competencies necessary for safe and efficient flight operations” – says Sovetkin.

This implies leaving behind the typical scenarios in assessing and developing pilots’ key competencies. EBT’s efficiency is rooted in allowing pilots to manage unpredictable situations in flight, even without having been previously exposed to this particular situation. EBT is based on Competence Based Training principles.

Aeroflot started to introduce the new system by training ten instructors in 2018. Since 2021 simulator training at Russia’s leading airline has been aligned with the new methodology.

“Needless to say, the implementation process has raised a lot of questions. They include standardization of the instructors and outdated regulations, among many others. To consolidate efforts, our department has created a special working group for maintaining and developing pilot competences. It includes about 60 instructors and examiners from all aircraft types operated by the airline,” Sovetkin reveals.

:: Aeroflot


In 2007 an international industry workgroup made of expert practitioners involved in flight crew training in almost 50 organizations worldwide, came to the conclusion that the first – and paramount – step in redesigning crew training would be redefining pilot’s key competences and elaborating a system of behavioral indicators of efficiency – as pilot’s actions and behavioral models, which would be applicable in pilot training. After comprehensive consultations such behavioral structure was indeed elaborated, which covers eight behavioral indicators: procedures, communication, flightpath (automation), flightpath (manual), leadership and teamwork, decision making, situational awareness and workload management. All these factors are of critical importance for flight safety.

Next step is to define how to analyze and assess the level of development of these competences in each particular case. Here the responsibility is put on an instructor, who should be able to identify and eliminate the core problems in a pilot’s work patterns, not just the symptoms.

“There are four stages of this assessment,” Eduard Sovetkin explains. “The first one is observation. At this stage the instructor must closely observe crew work and monitor external factors. Quality of further steps depends on his ability to observe. The more details are registered, the easier it will be to deduct their primary cause during facilitation debriefing.

The second stage is taking notes. The notes made during training should enable the instructor to recollect the situation during debriefing, and this will serve as ground for facilitation.

The third step is classification. Correct classification is key to correct identification of competencies, which are short of standards. And finally, the fourth step is determining the level, which leads to elaborating a specific training program for each pilot in the future.”

Pilot’s individuality implies varying levels of development of different competencies – some may be very well developed, while others – underdeveloped or degraded.

Dealing with abnormal situations in flight requires high level of development of all competencies – including those that may have degraded. “So, training should focus not on drilling check-lists and actions in case of failures, bit on improving competencies. Which means that we develop and individual program for a pilot, aimed at bringing the underdeveloped competencies to the required level, which in turn improves flight safety,” Sovetkin summarizes.


Despite adverse environment, Aeroflot continues to recruit university and flight school graduates, and intends to gradually increase the number of vacancies. This year round 30 new pilots joined Aeroflot. “The number of new flight crew members will be increasing to fill the airline’s staffing needs. Our successful candidates show best study records and the highest level of flight training, those who are enrolled in Aeroflot “target recruitment program”. Aeroflot provides them with type rating for Airbus A320 and Boeing 737NG aircraft,” said Sovetkin.


Highly qualified staff, their knowledge, skills and experience are one of Aeroflot’s key assets, which enables the Group to achieve its strategic goals.

Russia’s flag carrier supports aviation educational institution by sustaining continuous close cooperation with them and offering students participation in “target recruitment program”.

A new project will be launched next academic year 2024 by the Group’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) division Aeroflot Technics, together with two universities, which will train maintenance personnel in Russia’s Far East. The first 100 college students will start their training in September 2024 in two departments of Airframe MRO and Avionics MRO.

This project is Aeroflot Group’s way to fulfill the needs of the Far East District of Russia in qualified technical personnel.

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