Redbird Migration: Technology as Teacher

By Scott Spangler on November 6th, 2017

RB-12Deciding which breakout sessions was a vexing challenge at the Redbird Migration Flight Training Symposium held at the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh between October 10 and 18. Participants could pick six of 17 breakout sessions, with only four repeats: Redbird R&D; ATDs: FAA approval, Certification & Regs; Best Practices for Teaching in a Redbird; and Bringing Redbird GIFT into Your Flight School.

GIFT—Guided Independent Flight Training—best articulated the sessions’ common denominator, technology as teacher. Learning to fly through self-study in a simulator is an interesting concept with a number of benefits. First, with an insufficient number of CFIs interested in exercising their teaching certificates, it allows one who teaches to supervise the education of more students. More importantly, it introduces more consistency in the presentation, practice, and evaluation of the of maneuvers GIFT teaches.

AV1-172Pilot proficiency is the next step, and expanding the efforts and success of EAA AirVenture’s Pilot Proficiency Center is an ongoing goal. Proficiency is an ongoing challenge for pilots who fly 50 hours (or less) each year for their own pleasure. Working with an instructor in a sim, pilots chose from a wide selection of VFR and IFR scenarios. Few will disagree that the sim is a better—and more affordable—classroom than an airplane. In addition, like GIFT, each scenario provides consistency that levels the teaching field.

Everyone agreed that increasing the benefit of this pilot resource depends on access and frequency. Billy Winburn of Community Aviation and Charlie Gregoire of Redbird Flight discussed ways sim-equipped flight schools could offer the scenarios at Pilot Proficiency Center on a Local Level.

A secondary benefit of all the simulator-based efforts was the growing ability to document a pilot’s progress from student to certificate to sustained proficiency. This was one of the topics Redbird’s Jerry Gregoire discussed at the Redbird R&D session. The proactive and interactive feedback pro and con about possible systems and their enhancements was an unexpected example of a diverse group working toward a common goal.

RB-20But maybe it was not that surprising, given the cautionary words of Bill Ayer, the retired pilot, chairman, president, and CEO of Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Air Group, one of the Migration’s featured speakers. Asking for a show of hands of those who measure and track their student completions, an isolated and lonely handful of arms reached to the homebuilt airplanes suspended above them.

Therein lies one reason why only a small, guessed-at percentage of students conclude their training with a successful checkride. Recounting the challenges he addressed in revitalizing Alaska Airlines, Ayer made it clear that “what you measure gets done.”

Indeed. Imagine what the population of active pilots would number if just half of the students over the past three decades had realized their dreams of becoming a pilot. If the combination of dedication, innovation, and integration of practical technology glimpsed at the Redbird Migration spreads to just half of the nation’s flight schools, that outcome is entirely possible. –Scott Spangler, Editor


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