Dr Robert Thomas
The Preflight Immersion Laboratory for Operations Training
In the next 20 years, the Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook projects 612,000 pilots will be needed to support the aviation industry. In response to increasing demand for pilot training, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s (ERAU) Daytona Beach Campus has developed the Preflight Immersion Laboratory for Operations Training (PILOT) program. The PILOT program is a new way to train private pilot students that aims to increase the capacity, efficiency, and effectiveness of private pilot training. The PILOT program is an evidence-based approach to flight training that began in the Fall semester of 2021 that leverages VR technology in training. New private pilot students complete a 4-week readiness program before starting the flight portion of the approved private pilot curriculum. In addition to students completing their one-on-one ground training and simulator lessons with their flight instructor, the students rotate through different training labs to partake in lessons on topics that have been shown to be traditionally difficult for new student pilots. The PILOT program lesson topics include aircraft preflight, normal and emergency checklists, radio communication phraseology, and basic flight maneuvers. Students use existing and newly developed VR software and flight simulation applications to provide background knowledge, training, and experience.
Initial data indicates that a reduction in flight hours to solo of up to 30% is possible. Several students have finished the entire private pilot curriculum in one semester instead of the traditional two. As more students complete their private pilot training, further data analysis will be conducted and reported on variables such as hours and time to complete, knowledge gain, student training satisfaction, and self-efficacy.