Skyport laboratory creating pilots in two-thirds the time for lower cost
After one year of turning students into Private Pilots for a flat fee of $9500, Redbird Flight Simulation’s Skyport reports their experiment in simulator-based training is working. At its Migration Flight Training Conference this week, Redbird announced the school has graduated 20 Private Pilots, as well as completed 18 instrument ratings, one multi-engine rating and one instrument instructor certificate. It took an average of 38 flight hours to complete the private pilot rating, which is less than two-thirds the national average.
“We found that we needed to completely rethink the learner, the materials and delivery methods,” says Roger Sharp, Director of Flight Operations for the Skyport. Sharp says the Skyport and Redbird have 46 products that have come out of this process so far, with more on the way. “We identify better methods every week,” Sharp says of the simulator.
Some of these products are high-tech, such as a Guided Independent Flight Training or GIFT, which demonstrates maneuvers in the simulator and scores student performance on that maneuver automatically. Sharp points out that most instructors don’t enjoy teaching the basics in a simulator, so GIFT and the communications-training software Parrot automate the process until the student is ready to practice with live person watching. The instructor can be more a coach and mentor that a primary teacher, which suits most instructors better.
The Skyport has several low-tech solutions as well. Instead of the cinderblock-sized FAR/AIM study guide, Skyport students get slim study guides of key points. The 56 study items on VFR regulations fit into a 28-page book. “Not only can we reduce the amount of information the learner has to absorb, but we greatly increase their depth of understanding of important subjects at the same time,” says Sharp. Like the simulation tools and training aids, these products will be available to the public in the near future.
Given the pass rates and time to complete their certificates, the system seems to be working, but Skyport feels there’s plenty of room to do better. “We have months of work to refine our current methods,” says Sharp, “but there is much more we can study in this laboratory. It’s up to the industry to propose what that will be.”