FRC International has developed a unique training course and qualification for the professional maritime sector. The Test Coxswain course is designed for both experienced crew members and technical staff who support both the specification and Test & Evaluation (T&E) of high performance craft.
As the complexity and cost of high speed craft increases it has become more important that these craft are fit-for-purpose. Assessment needs to be objective, valid and reliable. Gone are the days of an individual coxswain saying ‘that's OK’ to approve an acquisition worth millions of Dollars.
A major issue with RHIBs and fast boats is that a good coxswain can make a poor boat look good, and a poor coxswain can make a good boat look bad. Both can result in expensive procurement mistakes that have ramifications for safety and performance through the entire life of the craft.
Dr Trevor Dobbins and Jon Hill AFNI of FRC International recently delivered the Test Coxswain course to a group of experienced coxswains from the Canadian Department of Defence. Other presenters during the four-day course included SMEs from the UK MOD, RNLI, craft designers and data acquisition experts.
The course takes techniques and tools initially developed by the Test Pilot community and integrates them with the marine sector’s specific requirements. It provides coxswains with the knowledge and tools to support both the crafts specification and T&E phases. It is essential to understand the control required during trials, and how the Test Coxswain plays a critical part in achieving this. Similarities exist between helicopter pilots landing on moving ships, and coxswains coming alongside moving vessels. Both are required to accurately maintain station while operating in the harsh dynamic maritime environment with the responsibility for the crew and passengers safety.
Analysis methods are introduced to assess the craft, its expected use, and maximising its operational envelope. The Test Coxswain has to provide feedback on the handling of the craft. Rather than just having ‘good or bad’ FRC International have worked with experts from around the world to adapt Test Pilot assessment tools, such as Handling Qualities Rating Scales and configuration management, into their maritime equivalents.
Potential errors were also explored with world-renowned high speed craft designer, Lorne Campbell. He said, ‘there is a fundamental requirement for the Test Coxswain and designers to use a consistent language to ensure that mistakes are not made due to the misinterpretation of feedback.’
John Haynes, Operations Director of FRC International, said, ‘The Test Coxswain course provides designers, boat builders and end-users with the capability to enhance craft design and operation. The objective is that craft are fit-for-purpose for the extreme conditions that crews are expected to operate in. Feedback from course attendees has been excellent.’
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