U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


July 2003 




Thought for the month.....
Things do change. The only question is can we change quickly enough to keep up.

A New Way of Training.... One of the big landmark events in my flight training in the early 1960's was soloing. Flying an aircraft all-alone for the first time has always been an occasion worthy of note. Even when I went through Army flight training, soloing was always celebrated in a wet sorta way. Today however, the requirements and methods of pilot training are coming under some scrutiny, and changes are being considered.

Flight training was often an individual thing prior to World War II. A pilot was taught to takeoff and land and some basic navigation, and the rest was OJT. The requirement to get a lot of flyers into the air quickly for the Second World War necessitated a rethink on how to do the training as efficiently as possible and still turn out a capable pilot. Results of research into the physiological and psychological aspects of flying were folded back into the training process, further leading to new ways of teaching. The training model that came out WWII is still pretty much the way we teach new pilots to fly. The Aviation Instructor Handbook hasn't changed that much in the last 50 years. It hasn't had to because most training was done in propeller-driven single engine airplanes that used VOR and ADF for navigation.

Advanced systems like those showing up in aircraft such as the Cirrus SR22, the Adam A500, and Eclipse 500 personal jet, are making instructors and examiners reevaluate the way pilots are being trained and tested. These airplanes not only look different, they operate differently. I learned to fly using VORs. There were several manufacturers of the equipment and they had some differences, but basically all I had to know was how to turn it on, ID the VOR, select the radial I wanted to intercept or track, and go. Today, if I want to rent a Cessna 172, I have to ensure it's a model I'm familiar with and that I've been checked-out on the avionics package installed in that aircraft. Who'd of thought there would ever have to be differences training for a 172!

Teaching navigation has traditionally meant unfolding a sectional chart and pulling out a plotter and E6B. Is that still the best way to teach it? Perhaps it is more appropriate to sit down at a computer or in the aircraft and introduce the student to the multi-function display system that he or she will be using, which has moving maps, real-time weather, and traffic advisories all on one flat screen. Anyone who has taken a knowledge test recently has probably experienced a certain degree of frustration about having to learn weather-reporting procedures that they don't use. There are at least six different reliable sources of weather information, most of which are in plain language and include graphic depictions. The technology has changed so rapidly that the testing hasn't been able to keep up.

Returning to my original thought about soloing, when training new pilots flying aircraft with advanced systems aboard, maybe soloing the aircraft is not such a big deal. Instrument training would be automatically included in initial training so the first "solo" flight might actually be an event that occurs in the training cycle somewhere around the 40 or 50 hour level, and might be a cross country flight conducted IFR. The standards between a private and commercial rating would be blurred to the point where new designations might be necessary. The privileges on our pilot certificate will not only indicate the category of aircraft we are authorized to operate, but the systems we're qualified on. Pilot examiners will be selected for the aircraft they fly, and the advanced technology they can evaluate.

If all this sounds like some sort of pipe dream, the next time you're traveling south on I-55, take a short detour at the Hayti exit. Just on the East side of the interstate you will find the Mid-Continent Aircraft Company. Stop in and say "hi" to Dick Reed (tell him I sent you). Mid Continent is the Cessna distributor in the Mid-West so you'll get to see some new Cessnas on the property. Dick also sells agricultural aircraft and I'm sure he'd be pleased to show you some of those also. 15 years ago almost all Ag aircraft had round engines and a mag compass. If you look at one today you'll find a turbo prop airplane with a nav system right out of Star Wars. They can deliver the exact amount of product exactly where it's supposed to go, without having flaggers to mark the swath. An Ag pilot today must be as knowledgeable of the system as of the aircraft.

Reviewing the rules for training with advanced technology has become the subject of FITS - FAA/Industry Training Standards. If you subscribe to FAAviation News or Flying magazine, you've probably seen several articles on the subject. FITS is addressing the way we train pilots and the way we maintain proficiency using advanced technology. One consideration is a phased flight review that might be accomplished quarterly by completing a seminar, a training module online, or a CD, and culminating by flying with a "systems qualified" instructor every 24 months. Whatever the future holds, it will certainly require a culture change to keep up with teaching pilots they way they're going to be using new aircraft.

Upcoming Events

August 16th & 17th
Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association
FIRC at Linn Tech.
Linn, MO
Renewal for CFI's due in Aug. thru Nov.

Operations Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4835