Ab Initio Training Conference

WATS 22 Audience_2

WATS is entirely dedicated to airline simulation and training, allowing you to discover the latest innovative training solutions. Ab Initio schools have an important role to play in providing future pilots in sufficient numbers and of a quality suitable to move on to commercial multi-engine jet operations. The WATS Ab Initio Training Conference sessions provided key insights into the future of the industry.

To find out more about the speakers and to learn what they talked about, click on their name or go straight to the Meet the Speakers page.

Download the Ab Initio Training Conference presentations HERE.

Ab Initio Conference Moderator: Paul Preidecker

Day 1 – Tuesday 30th April 2024

Session 1 – Opening Remarks & Keynote Presentations (all streams)
1) Michael Whitaker, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
2) Captain Erika Armstrong, Pilot (Part 135 and 121)/Director of Marketing, Advanced Aircrew Academy
The Pilot Brain: How Personality Affects Safety

Session 2 – Regulatory & Training Market Outlook (all streams)
1) Robert Reckert, Manager Air Transportation Division, AFS-200, Federal Aviation Administration
FAA Update
2) Soufiane El Ouartassi, Product Marketing Manager, CAE
Aviation Talent Forecast

Session 3 – Different Approaches, Same Outcome?
A Panel Discussion on Ab Initio Training
Moderated by Paul Preidecker

  • Samantha Bowyer, Associate Professor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Lee Collins, Chief Executive Officer, National Flight Training Alliance
  • Lee Woodward, Chief Executive Officer, Skyborne Aviation Group Ltd.
  • Andy La Susa, Senior Manager, Cadet Programs, American Airlines

Session 4 – The Expectations of Experience – Beyond the Numbers
1) Jeff Wolf, VP of Government Affairs, FAA Liason, National Flight Training Alliance
Does Flight Training in America Need a Fundamental Overhaul?
2) Captain Salvador Costa Pereira, Chief Operating Officer/Head of Training, Sevenair Academy
Bridging the Gap Between Airline Training and Ab Initio Training
3) Samantha Bowyer, Associate Professor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
The Value of Variety

Day 2 – Wednesday 1st May 2024

Session 5 – The Cost of Doing Nothing

This panel explores the repercussions of neglecting pilot training, emphasizing the imperative of establishing training and accreditation protocols in early pilot education.

 Session 6 – It’s Not Too Late to Start Early
1) Kathryn Creedy, Aviation Journalist
Developing an Aviation Education Ecosystem and How Everyone Can Help
2) Dr. Carolina Anderson, Associate Professor & Samantha Bowyer, Associate Professor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Increasing the Pilot Population by Improving Aviation STEM Education in High Schools
3) Dana Marshall, Lead Teacher, South Alberta Flight Academy
Pilot Training in a Canadian Public High School: A Unique Opportunity for All

Session 7 – Creating Success Beyond the Norm: Integrating Alternatives
1) Captain Marnie Munns, Pilot Training Specialist, Commercial Training Solutions, Boeing Global Services
Revolutionizing Pilot Training: Early Introduction of Competency-Based Training and Assessment
2) Dr. Robert Thomas, Assistant Professor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Guiding the Selection of Proper XR Displays to Enable Effective Ab Initio Training
3) Dr. Nicholas Wilson, Associate Professor & Dr. Andrew Leonard, Assistant Professor, University of North Dakota
Assessing Stakeholder Opinions in the Shift to Electric-Powered Aircraft

Session 8 – Airline Training Leaders Panel (Pilot & Ab Initio)
Moderated by Captain Paul Preidecker & Rick Adams 


  • Captain Jean-Michel Bigarré, Founder & President, Aircraft Manufacturer Flight Training Association (AMFTA)
  • William McDonald, Managing Director, Flight Operations, Airlines for America
  • Captain Michael Dee, Managing Director, Flight Operations, Republic Airways
  • Captain Jorge Reyes, Training Director, Copa Airlines
  • Captain Christof Kemény, Captain/Senior Checkairman/Senior Training Advisor, Lufthansa Group
  • Captain Ping Lee, Chief Pilot of HF CRM Team, EVA Airways

Day 3 – Thursday 2nd May 2024

Session 9 – Human Factors Panel: Stress, Fatigue and Mental Wellness (Pilot & Ab Initio)

BREAKOUT SESSION – Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) (Pilot & Ab Initio)
1) Murat Kose, CEO, Quantum3D
Mixed Reality eVTOL Flight Simulator
2) Dr. Samantha Emerson, Research Scientist, Aptima, Inc.
Training a New Generation of Pilots and Maintainers: Open Issues in eVTOL Training
3) Chase Schulze, Director of Engineering Services, Operations, Systems Technology Inc. (STI)
eVTOL Simulation from an (AI-Adapted) Clean Sheet

Session 10 – XR Goes Mainstream (all streams)
1) Amanda Bentley, Senior Director Integration Sales, Americas, Tobii & Dr. Aki Nikolaidis, Chief Science Officer, VTR
Building Disruptive Training with XR and Eye Tracking
2) Fabi Riesen, CEO & Founder, Loft Dynamics
Virtual Reality in Motion
3) Dr. Julian Abich IV, Senior Human Factors Engineer, Quantum Improvements Consulting
Multi-Pilot Mixed Reality Simulator for Aviation Training 

WATS 2024 Sponsors & Partners

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Organised By

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Conference By

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Supported By

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