In discussing a wide range of subjects starting with flight training, much has been said about the dilatory and disaffecting consequences of aviation’s financial requirements. But in order of importance, money must follow time, a finite resource that can never be renewed, only used efficiently.
If not effectively and efficiently guided by a well thought out curriculum designed for the student’s particular needs and acted upon by a teacher and student committed to its goals, learning to fly can squander vast amounts of both time and money if either member of this educational team is not prepared, on-time, and ready to work.
No matter how well designed and delivered a flight training program may be, preparation is key to mitigating the waste that can result when unplanned variables threaten a scheduled lesson. A proactive maintenance and inspection program reduces the chances of a mechanical cancellation, and another aircraft of short wait for a returning trainer can often salvage the already committed investment of time.
Dealing with Mother Nature isn’t so easy when she makes it clear that real airplane flying is not a safe educational pursuit. Canceling the lesson shouldn’t be seen as a waste of time when safety is at stake. The value gained or lost should be measured by how the teacher and school reinvest the time.
Flying indoors with a simulator or flight training device, if the school is so equipped, can be a superior investment of training time, if specific “weather plans” are part of the overall curriculum. That is one of the goals at the Fox Valley Technical College where the aviation program at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is integrating two Redbird full-motion sims into all of its flight training programs.
Ground school and “chair flying” can be traditional foul-weather alternatives, if they focus on actual weaknesses of knowledge or skill rather than a topic the instructor snatches from thin air. The same assessment applies to sims, but this option can squander time’s value if the student’s flying skills are checkride ready and his or her knowledge of the regulations or other classroom subject are not.
Ultimately, the decision—and the value of time spent—lies with the teacher. “Supplemental training” is what Sporty’s Academy calls “alternatives to airplane flying during inclement weather,” said Eric Radtke, academy president and chief flight instructor, and “meticulous record keeping (all to Part 141 standards) avoids unnecessary or duplicate training tasks.”
Sporty’s has employed a Frasca 142 since 1992, and its new Frasca Mentor, with a 200-degree visual system and satellite imagery of the terrain within 150 miles of Ohio’s Clermont County Airport, went online in December 2011. Like Fox Valley Tech, Sporty’s is in the process of carefully integrating the device into all of its training programs to make learning more efficient and economical.
“Our staff has the authority to always conduct supplemental flights in the Frasca devices if they are performing tasks or lessons not specifically designated for the device,” said Radtke. “ We do require Chief Instructor approval anytime we are officially changing equipment to accomplish a lesson.”
Preprogramming specific lessons is another step Sporty’s and Frasca are taking to make all sim training more efficient. In most general aviation simulator training, the instructor must also run the sim, which distracts from his primary mission—teaching. Once complete, the teacher will start a programmed ground reference maneuver, emergency situation, or diversion scenario, and then focus all attention on how the student performs or deals with the situation at hand.
But all work and no “play” can also have a deleterious effect on students. Foul weather can be like a snow day, an opportunity to learn about some intriguing aviation topic not included the training program’s curriculum. Equipped with a real Garmin G1000 system, Sporty’s has designed a number of Mentor flights that introduce students to cockpit glass. Certainly, there are many other options limited only by the teachers’ educational imagination. – Scott Spangler, Editor