Captain Emil Dobrovolschi and international trainer Octavian Pantis share lessons from their new book Dark Cockpit with our host Evan Hackel
We are excited to share excerpts from a recent conversation between our host Evan Hackel and two remarkable men – airline Captain Emil Dobrovolschi and international trainer Octavian Pantis, authors of the new book Dark Cockpit: How to Communicate, Lead, and Be In Control at All Times Like an Airline Captain (Ignite Press, May 6, 2021).
The motivation behind Dark Cockpit was to revolutionize training by tapping into the treasure of knowledge that has been developed for aviation training, and to explain how it can be applied to leadership, crisis management, and other critical tasks. The authors, Emil and Octavian, have done a remarkable job of taking their knowledge about pilot training and translating it into advice all of us can use – even those of us who will never pilot a plane.
There is nothing theoretical or “soft” about their advice, because the training pilots receive can make the difference between life and death. And these two men, who both hail from Romania, are the “real deal” in providing that training. Captain Emil Dobrovolschi is a pilot with Torom, the national airline of Romania. He has been flying for Torom for 29 years, has been a flight instructor for 20 years, and has been an examiner for the last 18 years. That means that he is part of a team that examines every pilot who takes charge of a plane in Romania, and issues pilot’s licenses.
“It is a great responsibility, Emil told Evan. “At the end of the day if you do not trust a pilot to fly your family . . . my job is to judge how they perform and if they do not perform well, we will not pass them.”
Octavian Pantis, who wrote Dark Cockpit with Captain Emil, brings a similarly high level of experience to his work as an international master trainer. Also headquartered in Bucharest, Octavian manages an international training company that focuses on leadership, training, productivity and international culture.
Let’s hear what Evan, Emil and Octavian talked about in this important podcast.
Evan Sets the Context for Why Training Is Critical
Evan observed, “Pilot training can be the difference between life and death. Many companies don’t see training that way. They don’t see it as a life or death activity for their companies, but it truly is. So your insights are critically important for our viewers to hear.”
Octavian Lays Out an Approach for Training that Can’t Be Allowed to Fail
Octavian, as we noted above, is a professional trainer who specializes in training that focuses on leadership, productivity and culture.
He explained his belief to Evan and Emil that in order for training to be ultra-effective, it should conform to these three keys:
- First, everyone must train. “Everyone in an organization should attend the training,” Octavian said. “It is not just for newcomers.”
- Second, it’s ongoing. “It’s regular, not only for when you have the budget or when you have the time or a subject to teach or when the manager says it’s time to do it,” he explained.
- Third, it’s not limited in scope. “Training should be on a wide range of topics,” he said. “It’s not only on what’s new.”
Furthermore, expectations should be high for training. Octavian explained, “In air travel, training is not just about getting from Point A to Point B safely, but also comfortably, if possible. To achieve that, many things have to be in place. Without higher expectations, training would not work.”
Why Communication Is a Critically Important Training Topic in Aviation and in Your Organization Too
“Everybody knows that communication is important,” Emil told Evan and Octavian. “And in aviation, communication is critical for avoiding and dealing with mishaps. In aviation, history is written in blood!
“So for us, communication and training are vital. The way we communicate, the way we pass the message unequivocally, without access to body language, the way we manage to understand each other in a dark environment, is critical . . . for us, it’s a skill we develop over the years, but also something we learn in training. So every pilot, every year, goes twice to the simulator for eight hours.
“One session is for training in a simulator. The next session is a check, where the pilot goes if he passes that simulator training session. If the pilot doesn’t pass the simulator training session, he will not go to the second session, the check. And if a pilot doesn’t pass the check, he will be grounded until the next exam.
“Most of the people who fail this process are beginners. But there is no tolerance for mistakes, no tolerance for indiscipline. . . some pilots after maybe five or 10 years, become complacent. They know the aircraft. They may know how to make decisions, but they become complacent, and they don’t learn any more. And they are just, as I say, just floating.
“But that is not possible in our training, because the minimum mark to pass an exam is 7.5 or 8. For my company, it means achieving 8 out of 10. So if you’re not above that standard, you’re not flying the aircraft, you’re not in the cockpit any more.
“That puts pressure on the instructors first. You need to standardize the training for trainers and examiners, so they reach a good standard . . . It’s not a punishment, but it’s a pressure on the trainers and then on the professional pilots too.”
Imparting a Sense that Training is Critically Important
In every year they fly, pilots can become a little more complacent and comfortable. And training has to fight that and help assure that pilots remain aware of the dangers they are dealing with.
“Everybody gets a little bit more comfortable,” Emil told Evan and Octavian. “But as a professional pilot, you cannot do that. Not for a minute! If I’m drinking a coffee in my cockpit at 12,000 meters, 39,000 feet, I will maybe feel a little comfortable. I can have a chat with my colleague, but my eyes are always on the instruments. I’m in a nice, comfortable environment. It’s warm or cold the way I want. But outside the window, just two feet away from my shoulder, its minus 70 degrees and the aircraft flies at 450 miles per hour! So at any moment something wrong can happen if you are not prepared for the worst every time.
“Pick every incident or accident in the history of aviation, and I will show you how there was a lack of training in that company or a lack of training of those pilots, in the way they got the license, in the way they trained.
“And if you want to maintain a high level of training, a high level of proficiency in your pilots, you have to train them not just the technical skills, but you have to train the non-technical skills, their attitude, and the way they communicate, things like that.”
Octavian on How to Keep Trainees Coming Back and Staying Committed to Training
“One key is to keep training regular,” Octavian told Evan and Emil. “For instance, in aviation, even the best pilots in the world know that they’re scheduled for training in September and then in April.
“Yet in many companies where training doesn’t happen for a while, people are apt to think, `What’s wrong? What do you have against me? Did I do something wrong that you sent me to training?’
“But if it’s regular, then it’s like brushing teeth, it’s like having the annual or biannual performance evaluations, then yeah, when is when is the next one, the next one in September? So it’s not like, why do I have to go? You have to go because you have to, because it’s a natural part of what you do.”
A Special Offer
Captain Emil and master trainer Octavian invite all members of the Training Unleashed family to download a free chapter of their new book DarkCockpitBook.com. This book is more than interesting or useful – it is thrilling. You won’t want to pass up this chance to learn how to apply its lessons to creating training that simply cannot be allowed to fail.
Be sure to watch this critically important podcast now, [INSERT LINK] It is an experience that will transform your training and your success!
About Our Guests
Captain Emil Dobrovolschi is a pilot with Torom, the national airline of Romania. He has been flying for Torom for 29 years, has been a flight instructor for 20 years and has been an examiner for the last 18 years. That means that he is part of the team that examines every pilot who takes charge of a plane in Romania, and issues pilot’s licenses.
Octavian Pantis, who wrote Dark Cockpit with Captain Emil, brings a similarly high level of experience to his work as an international master trainer. Also headquartered in Bucharest, he manages an international training company that focuses on leadership, training, productivity and international culture.