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Pilot Training Reform: What's It Gonna Take?

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The all-purpose, idealistic answer is to start over, according to the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, which met this week in Atlanta in the first-of-its-kind symposium to improve the quality and delivery of flight education. The practical answer, however, is a lot more complicated than that, according to the recommendations made by individual committees within the SAFE group. Altogether, about 150 flight instructors, examiners and industry educators and vendors attended the symposium and after a day of rapid-fire presentations, the symposium divided into break-out groups to make specific recommendations. More than 20 specific changes were recommended, ranging from improvements in training doctrine, higher standards for instructor refresher courses, better guidance for flight reviews, scenario-based risk management training and a closer look at how simulators of various types might be put to better use in training new pilots and keeping existing certificate holders sharper and safer.

Significantly, the FAA was present at the symposium in force, including FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who encouraged SAFE to participate in shaping the agency's new five-year safety and accident-prevention initiative. (See this related story.) Also present was Mel Cintron, head of the agency's general aviation and commercial division, whose job it will be to fill in the details and help make SAFE's recommendations work in the real world. (Hear the details in this podcast.) But both Babbitt and Cintron were clear about not wanting to add regulations to achieve the lower fatal accident rate that is one of the group's major goals. Both insisted the accident rate can be reduced through a cooperative effort between industry and government. In this podcast, SAFE's Bob Wright told AVweb what the next step is and how SAFE can achieve some of its goals.

Other recommendations generated by SAFE include:

  • Improving the student retention by delivering a better "inside-the-door" experiences at flight schools
  • Training flight instructors to be more customer-service oriented
  • Providing flight instructors with more uniform tools to improve standardization
  • Customize recurrent training by type of certificate  and develop more practical and useful mentoring programs
  • Review and improve the CFI re-validation process
  • Set up a standing industry standards committee to improve the practical test standards
  • Establish continuing education programs for flight instructors

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