Dr. Christian Theuermann, CEO, AXIS Flight Training Systems, discusses the shortage of flight instructors and its impact on the aviation industry as a whole.

According to Boeing’s most recent pilot outlook, the industry will need 790,000 new pilots to meet demand by 2037, with major and regional airlines stepping up pilot recruitment worldwide.

As a result, many fight instructors are quickly accruing the minimal hours required and continuing immediately into airline employment. With some flight instructors progressing to a pilot position in as little as two years, approved training organisations (ATOs) are experiencing high staff turnover and inconsistent training for cadets.

In this environment, simulator manufacturers like AXIS Flight Training Systems must adapt and innovate, in order to produce solutions that support the pilot training industry through the current flight instructor shortage.

Retaining instructors

It could be argued that becoming a flight instructor is not as attractive as it once was, with lower salaries and minimal benefits when compared to the competitive market for professional pilots today. Whilst many ATOs have recently increased their salary and benefit packages to entice young instructors, the high cost of training to become a qualified instructor, coupled with the strong demand for pilots, is creating a vicious cycle. Flight instructors can become frustrated with the system, as they’ve spent thousands of pounds on training, to then enter a lower paying job. By accruing more flight hours and a type rating, they can become airline pilots, a route which – despite the time spent away from home – offers a much higher salary.

The simulator experience

In today’s market, the attraction of an alternative career path for instructors is clear. But what can manufacturers do to mitigate the effects of the flight instructor shortage? We believe the answer lies with those working under these conditions on a daily basis – flight instructors, cadets and ATOs. Manufacturers are incredibly experienced with new technologies and functionality, but how often do they come face-to-face with instructors to explore what is and isn’t working in simulator technology? Flight instructors want to work in an environment that is produced to a high speci cation, which exactly replicates the cockpit and ight experience of a real aircraft. If this is not available, it can negatively impact the flight instructor’s teaching, producing a knock- on effect on the cadets learning to y.

It is also vitally important that a flight instructor has confidence in the simulator they’re using in order to utilise it effectively for training. Instructors are experienced pilots and can tell straightaway when a simulator’s behavior in response to a particular scenario, such as take-off or turbulence, doesn’t match that of the aircraft in real life. The key is in designing a full flight simulator that passes the subjective tests imposed by flight instructors, not just the objective tests required for certification. Otherwise, an instructor will waste time tweaking and tuning a simulator to make it work for them – time which should be spent training the next generation of pilots.

Intelligent technology

Time is extremely precious for all parties involved, so optimising the time spent inside the simulator is crucial. Currently, flight instructors spend 15 to 20 minutes manually entering data into flight management systems, wasting time and money for the ATO, the student and the instructor. By investing in automated technologies and an intelligent Instructor Operating Station (IOS), manufacturers can instantly eliminate the need for these manual tasks. In addition to saving time, these features can also enhance the training experience for those involved. For example, automated feedback loops, which allow the instructor to immediately know how students have performed with supporting data, make instructors’ lives easier and allow the cadet to receive a more accurate review of their performance.

However, it is only by working closely with ATOs that these pain points are recognised, and manufacturers can produce the tools to solve these problems, streamline work ows and make each training day more ef cient and effective. It is also, evidently, in the interests of ATOs to in uence how simulators are designed and built. If an ATO is known for buying inadequate simulators, it is unlikely an instructor will want to teach there. In the same way, if an instructor is aligned with an ATO with a poor reputation, it can negatively impact their own personal standing. If an ATO can’t attract talented instructors, they can’t teach enough students, which damages pro tability.

Tomorrow’s simulators

To help the aviation industry through the current ying instructor shortage, manufacturers, ATOs and cadets need to work harmoniously together, to create the perfect teaching and learning experience. For example, at AXIS Flight Training Systems, we engage with pilots from the earliest stages of our simulator development, to really find out what matters to them and how we can improve the training experience for all.

Across the industry, simulator manufacturers must continue investing in cutting-edge technology in close co-operation with their customers, in order to produce tomorrow’s simulators for today’s training. Only through sustained, powerful innovation can we give flight schools, instructors and students the tools they need to succeed.

Article from ERA’s Regional International magazine – see full version of the magazine at: http://www.eraa.org/publications/regional-international

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