AQP is founded on the principle that the content of training and checking activities should be directly driven by the content of the operational job. The first step in AQP, therefore, is the conduct of an aircraft specific job task analysis, which begins with the development of a comprehensive task listing for each duty position. The task listing should cover the full range of conditions and contingencies - internal to the aircraft, external to the aircraft, normal, abnormal, and emergency - to which the pilot may be exposed within the applicant's sphere of operations.

The task listing is then analyzed to identify the skills, knowledges, and abilities (SKA's) necessary for competent performance of each task and subtask, including SKA's which reflect CRM considerations. Where appropriate, CRM skills pertinent to effective task execution should be identified in the context of the specific flight task to which they apply.

The AQP analysis methodology provides for the identification of both phase specific and phase independent skills. Skills found to be applicable across multiple flight tasks may be identified as phase independent. Additional analysis intended to support subsequent syllabus development may be conducted on tasks and subtasks, including such considerations as relative frequency of occurrence in routine operations, operational criticality, and success criteria.

Terminal and supporting objectives are then extracted from the task and subtask analysis, respectively, for each duty position, and must include identification of applicable performance, standards, and conditions. The documentation of proficiency objectives must identify the references used, respectively, in defining performance, standards, and conditions for each. This information is submitted for approval to the FAA in the form of AQP qualification standards.

The applicant may elect to identify certain SKA's as enabling objectives, including both phase specific and phase independent SKA’s. Enabling objectives are used to prepare individuals and crews for subsequent training in an operational cockpit environment. Identification of such objectives is particularly useful for assuring that courseware, such as computer based instruction, directly supports higher order objectives at subsequent points within a curriculum. The linkage established between levels of objectives may also facilitate the process of updating course content when modifications are needed, so that changes at any one level are properly reflected elsewhere in the hierarchy.

Tasks, subtasks, and associated SKA’s are then allocated to curriculum segments, modules, lessons, and lesson elements in a building block fashion. Most AQP applicants have elected to make use of software tools which significantly facilitate the entire process of applying the front end analysis to curriculum development. These tools, which are usually based on relational data base architectures, are useful in keeping track of the relationships between various levels of tasks, SKA's, proficiency objectives, courseware, media, training devices, and so on. Such tools reduce the time and labor costs associated with developing a particular AQP. To the extent that common elements exist which may be applied across AQP's, they facilitate the identification and reapplication of such elements, and may reduce an applicant's subsequent AQP development cost. The FAA has funded the development of a Model AQP software tool to assist in the accomplishment of these functions, which is provided to air carriers who wish to make use of it (Mangold & Neumeister, 1995).