26th July 2023

Online learning

Initial Report

In 2018/9 the company were instructed by the CAA to roster a day of online learning to reflect the time that pilots were spending outside of their duty days completing tech quizzes, pre learning for simulator, aircrew notices etc. Once that happened the company added more study material to be completed before simulator sessions and took the SEP course entirely online (they did roster a day every other year for this item). The required pre reading for the simulator now covers 35 items.

All the courses that I used to attend a classroom to take part in are now done online in our own time and we are rostered a day of every year and a day off every other year to reflect this workload in our own time. At least we were. The company have now taken to rostering the online learning day in chunks, either before or after a duty. They have been challenged by the BALPA, their response is that it complies with the CAA request to record the time we spend doing online learning. My issue with this is that this is a cynical ploy to comply with the CAA requirements ignoring the spirit.

I was rostered an online learning block of 3 hours after an 8 hour duty. I was given 90 minutes to get home and then 3 hours online learning. This fails to take into account the fact that after a total of 9½ hours out of the house, a flight in bad weather at both ends and a commute in bad weather both ways the last thing I feel able to do is sit down and study. In the event I actually contacted crewing and asked them to put me down as fatigued for the online learning part of my duty. Whilst the company may well be complying with CAA requirements, rostering the time in blocks like this either before or after a duty is wholly inappropriate. It is nothing more than a paper exercise to make sure that pilots are available for the maximum number of days flying, over the years the time spent on courses has been pared down to the absolute minimum. A case of the company wanting to have its cake and eat it?

Company Comment

Shifting to online platforms has allowed us to streamline certain courses and provide more flexibility. The rostered activities, including online learning, are accounted for within the overall duty time but do not directly contribute to FDP calculations. FDP begins at report and concludes when the aircraft becomes stationary after the last sector. Therefore, while online learning may be added to a rostered day, it does not necessarily have to be completed during that specific period. Furthermore, the airline uses a dedicated time allocation for all required courses to ensure the time on roster is adequate. This also explains why the airline uses a different 2 year cycle for the hours allocation.

Lastly, the airline has entirely reviewed SEP training following feedback from our pilots where they felt that the classroom training provided little added value. As a result of this we made some significant improvements to our training delivery. As an example, our fire training now takes place in the simulator (using a simulated fire) in order to provide quality training for our pilots in the environment they are mostly likely to use these skills.

CHIRP Comment

The reporter’s contention is that online learning is now rostered in chunks that are not compatible with other duties. As the company comment notes, such training is not part of FDP calculations and rostering them for a specific duty period is simply a device to ensure that the time spent is accounted for as a duty in its own right and therefore included within basic pay etc as appropriate. Although it was assigned a specific date/time, it did not mean that the training had to be conducted at those times, and the activity could be done during reserve or standby for example, or whenever suited people best. Be that as it may, this was not clear to the reporter (and perhaps others), and so there is a case for the company explicitly stating within its training guidance that the timing of such online training is flexible provided it is completed within a predetermined date as applicable.

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