Are you an “expert”? Does your airline train you as an expert?


Are you an “expert”?  Do you think that the industry, the public and regulatory agencies expect you to be an “expert”?  Are you being provided the tools you need to become an “expert”?  Do you need to be an expert?

I have been a bit busy of late crunching numbers and researching some aspects from some closed accident and incident investigations, but thought it time for a short post regarding flight training.  I have been reading a book by Dr. Robert Hoffman et al (2013) that discusses how to obtain expertise as quickly as possible.  The study’s impetus came from a tasking from the Defense Science and Technology Advisory Group, which was looking for ways to ensure top levels of expertise in various military personnel.  Much of the focus lends itself very well to the job of pilots.

We see automation errors that are a direct result of the pilot not fully understanding the automation, how it interacts with other systems and how to predict what it will do next.  I will save more for a future article, but thought that the following might be of interest.  These are guidelines for effective instruction towards the creation of someone who will be an “expert”.  It would seem to follow that if someone is already an “expert” in the field, that if they are learning a new, but related skill (such as a new aircraft type), that these would be the minimum that should be accomplished (p. 31):

  1. Learning activities must provide multiple representations of content;
  2. Instructional materials should avoid oversimplifying the content domain and support context-dependent knowledge;
  3. Instruction should be case-based and emphasize knowledge construction, and not just the transmission of information;
  4. Knowledge sources should be highly interconnected rather that compartmentalized.

Do you feel your training has met these minimum standards?  Would it make a difference if it did?


Hoffman, R. R., Ward, P., Feltovich, P. J., DiBello, L., Fiore, S. M., & Andrews, D. H. (2013). Accelerated Learning: Training for High Proficiency in a Complex World. Psychology Press.




About Shem Malmquist FRAeS

B-777 Captain. Air Safety and Accident Investigator. Previous experience includes Flight Operations management, Assistant Chief Pilot. Line Check Airman, ALPA Aircraft Technical and Engineering Chairman, Aircraft Performance and Designs Committee MEC Chair, Charting and Instrument Procedures Committee, Group Leader-Commercial Aviation Safety Team-Joint Safety Implementation Team (CAST)-Loss of Control-Human Factors and Automation, CAST-JSIT- Aircraft State Awareness. Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, full Member of ISASI, AIAA, IEEE, HFES, FSF, AFA and the Resilience Engineering Association. I am available for consulting, speaking or providing training seminars to your organization. Please contact me at inquiries.
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