Aviation attracts a lot of smart people and I want to ask you for your insights. What ideas do you propose for 1) Improving General Aviation Safety and 2) Improving the Pilot Training Process so that more people become pilots.
Those are the two central themes of next week’s 2011 Pilot Training Reform Symposium being held by SAFE, the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators. I’m on one of the panels and have a few ideas on the subject, but am looking for new ones. If you’d like to share your thoughts, please click on the Comments link below or send me an email.
A recently posted YouTube video interviews industry leaders about what is right and wrong with the industry. Alan Klapmeier, co-founder of Cirrus Aircraft feels that the industry needs to focus on customer value and do a better job of communicating that value to non-pilots. Jack Pelton, CEO of Cessna feels that it’s expensive to learn to fly and that Light Sport Aircraft will help. He also believes that modern technologies can be used to improve the pilot training process.
From a safety standpoint, I would like to see testing of risk management concepts added to the Private PTS. At least 80% of accidents are the result of poor pilot judgment, yet pilot training is focused mostly on maneuvers, not risk management and judgment. Fundamentally, our pilot training process is unchanged from what was used to create tens of thousands of pilots to fight in World War II. While that process produced a lot of pilots, their longevity was not a primary consideration of the training.
To generate more pilots, we desperately need training aircraft with lower per hour operating costs. The most likely breakthrough will be an electric powered aircraft that can stay in the air for at least a couple of hours and has a fast way to recharge or swap batteries. But we also need more structure in our training curriculum. When I surveyed 150 people who took pilot training, those who dropped out were more likely to rate their instructors as being disorganized and without a structured syllabus.
The dirty secret of the industry is that many instructors don’t really want to teach, but are just doing it as a way to accumulate flight hours so that they can apply for an airline job. That situation is only going to get worse with new regulations that raise the minimum hours to become an airline co-pilot. Which is not to say that some airline-bound instructors don’t provide excellent training; they do. But how do we deal with instructors that really don’t want to teach and are merely marking time until they can get the job they really want?
Hats off to SAFE for having the vision to take on this challenge. By bringing industry leaders together, including senior members of the FAA, they’re providing a forum for getting the best ideas in front of the people who can implement them. What ideas do you have that this group should hear next week?