The need to train new staff in ramp handling of freighter aircraft presented Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl) – Hong Kong’s major independent handler – with two significant challenges.
Firstly, there is a lack of opportunity to practice on real aircraft both due to schedule constraints, and carriers’ understandable unwillingness to allow training of inexperienced staff on their valuable aircraft. Secondly, the fast-paced, busy and noisy environment of the ramp represents a potentially hazardous and intimidating environment for new recruits; and it’s less than ideal for intensive training.
Hactl conducts all its staff training in-house, using dedicated trainers and a state-of-the-art training suite occupying an entire floor of its headquarters. Such is the quality and focus given to staff training at Hactl, that the company is an IATA-accredited DGR training centre that provides courses to airlines, agents and other external trainees. Hactl is also widely-noted for leading industry innovation.
Hactl’s solution to the challenges of ramp handling training – now successfully in place for some three years – was typically innovative: to re-create the aircraft and ramp environment in the safety of the classroom, using Virtual Reality (VR).
Hactl’s VR system provides an immersive and realistic environment for inexperienced staff, enabling them to obtain hands-on practice in total safety, and without risk of damage to aircraft and equipment. The VR system uses headgear to reproduce the larger 360 degree environments of aircraft and ramp, while tablets are used for ULD building training sessions. This equipment is portable and totally flexible, enabling training sessions to take place in any indoor location, without the need to use a dedicated VR suite.
The success of Hactl’s VR ramp handling training has led to its adoption for a wider range of disciplines and topics, such as Personnel Safety, ULD handling, pallet building, spotting discrepancies between cargo and documentation, etc.
Trainers are now able to monitor trainee performance, and respond interactively with on-screen comments and tips. The system also logs performance to help highlight areas requiring further attention, and monitor the trainee’s progress.
“We find that VR training increases interest and greatly improves engagement and retention, compared to classic classroom training,” says Hactl Head of Human Resources Jason Lee. “And, when candidates are finally introduced to the “live” environment, they are already more familiar with tasks, more safety-conscious and more confident.”