Air Force Studies eVTOL Pilot Training


The Air Force is having a look at how it might use eVTOLs and is starting with who’s best for the flight deck. It’s hired Massachusetts consulting company Aptima to figure out what an Air Force eVTOL pilot might look like. “The learnability study will help us not only understand the baseline pilot skills and competencies needed for proficient eVTOL flight, but also the impact of automation on pilot performance,” said Samantha Emerson, training, learning & readiness scientist at Aptima.

One of the big challenges for establishing a training regimen is that the eVTOLs that have emerged so far have a wide range of automation. More experienced pilots tend to suck at filling the seat in a highly automated platform. Training them to fly vehicles that fly themselves might require some dumbing down. “Even though a more experienced pilot may possess greater ability in controlling aircraft, not all those skills may be useful or even desired in platforms with more automation and augmentation,” Emerson said. “In fact, it may require an ‘unlearning’ and re-training of behaviors to prevent interference or conflict with automated operations.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Obviously, you will need 20/20 vision, perfect eye/hand co-ordination, be able to run 3,000 metres in 10 minutes and be able to march in perfect step. Plus be happy to have horrible haircuts.
    After that, being able to find the on switch, and be able to push it without an expression of alarm on your face, will guarantee entry.

  2. What would Chuck Yeager have said about flying this contraption? Expletive deleted, for sure!

  3. What will these be used for? It seems to me such a vehicle will be particularly vulnerable to ground fire from just about any firearm other than shotguns.

  4. Like helicopters when they first came out, they want to waste enlisted on them if they crash. Enlisted are disposable and cost less when dead. Warrants are the next to go. Army uses them as a somewhere in between.

  5. I can’t see people lining up to want to fly these things. Equipment: headset, check; night vision goggles, check; bullet proof vest, check; kevlar jockstrap, check. OH SH*T!!! A Mig 29 is rolling in on me!!!

  6. Your tax dollars -Completely wasted. These morons funded something that will never help the military or help the citizens. Quit wasting the taxpayers money.

    • Never help the military? I cannot understand why you would think something that could likely fly to a given place, with or without a pilot, and pick up someone needing to get out of where he was would never by of use to the military.

  7. … and people were poo-pooing the A-10 as a ‘vulnerable’ platform and supporting their retirement. Give me a break !!

    From many years involved w/ flight test at Edwards, I learned that the military needs to have a plethora of ‘toys’ available at their disposal for use is all contingencies. As much as I dislike these things, they probably do have a use … somewhere? I don’t know where that is but … somewhere. 😉

    • You are right Larry. I’m sure that back when the army first got interested in the Wright flyers there was a huge crowd of naysayers that thought it was a stupid waste of money. After all, those idiot flying machines would never amount to anything useful! It’s likely that the funky looking things we see today will evolve into a much more capable machine, maybe with a little DARPA funding. And the discussion of whether a skilled stick and rudder pilot would be the best fit for flying highly automated eVTOLs reminds me of the similar issue the military had with remote drone pilots when they first came out. They discovered that young non-pilot guys who were good at video games were better suited at controlling the drones than were fighter jocks. Different set of skills.

    • At their simplest, they’re basically a flying jeep. Leave it to the soldiers to find uses that were never in the design specs.

  8. Is the article’s second paragraph indicative of the concerns about current pilot skills, and why they seem to frequently not be able to react to an actually flying event that requires a reaction with manual flying skills.

  9. Knowing the government they will invent a use for them to justify their expense. These don’t fill any current need but they check the political boxes such as Trendy, Environmentally Friendly, No Aviation Skills Required, etc.