Sim-Based GA Flight Training Experiment Begins

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Can extensive use of simulators really reduce training times and costs? Redbird Flight Simulations and King Schools hope to prove it can with the opening of Redbird Skyport. In a podcast interview, Jerry Gregoire, president of Redbird, said the FBO and flight school is also a laboratory to test a new curriculum from King Schools that teaches everything in the simulator first. Once mastered in the sim, the student performs the lesson in the real airplane. The payoff, according to Gregoire, is a new private certificate in three weeks for a fixed cost of $9,500. Instrument and commercial certificates will be offered for the same price.

Part of the deal is unlimited practice time in the simulator along with automated lessons. The King program will show a video -- privately to the student on the simulator screen -- of the maneuver to fly. Then the sim puts the student in exactly the same situation and grades the performance when the student is done. John King says this program's flexibility means a student will always be able to have some lesson, even if the real weather prevents a non-virtual flight. "We have all these programs to bring people into flight training," says King. "We pour them into this bucket of flight training and we find 80 percent of them drop out. I think we're going to see a big change in the drop out rate. If you lose 80 percent, you can't put enough people into the bucket to keep it full." Groups such as GAMA, Avemco, Cessna, NAFI and AOPA are all partnering in the effort and will feed their own experiments into the lab. "There is a free flow of ideas coming in and a free flow of data coming out. All the secrets that we learn will be available to everybody in the industry," says Gregoire.

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