Jefferson M. Koonce
Center for Applied Human Factors in Aviation
University of Central Florida
The training of pilots has been a challenge since the earliest days of aviation ( Koonce, 1984; Koonce, 1998). In early flight training there were no formal instructor pilots, but only the words of advice from those who designed the air machines and the friendly and skeptical advice from friends and on-lookers. Many pilots were self-taught from books, magazines or their own imagination while constructing their own airplanes. After the First World War, many of the returning aviators engaged in barnstorming which attracted individuals eager to learn how to fly. Flight instruction was not well structured and it often took its toll in accidents and, unfortunately, lives.
Most of the pilot training today is quite similar to the methods used to train pilots fifty years ago ( Koonce, 1984, December). Typically, flight instructors guide their students through the information published in the various applicable FAA Advisory Circulars (AC 61-21A, 61-23C, & 61-65C) and the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARS) to learn about the knowledge areas required for certification. As the student is learning about the knowledge areas, the instructor teaches the students about the basics of flight in the airplane. The knowledge and skills to be developed in the flight instruction are specified in the FARs. After the first solo flight the instruction tends to focus on cross-country flying including en route emergencies or abnormal situations and pilot judgement and decision making. The student must take a multiple-choice examination on the specified knowledge areas with 70% correct being required for a passing grade before being recommended for the practical test for the private pilot certificate. To ensure the standardization of the training and evaluation, the FAA has issued Practical Test Standards (i.e. FAA-S-881- 1A) for the instructors and the evaluators to follow.
Beyond these basics, students may also acquire knowledge from a variety of books, audiotapes, video tapes and study guides to develop the knowledge specified in the regulations. Some student gain this knowledge through formal classroom training at aviation related college/university courses or at larger more formal flight training academies. The more formal flight training environments frequently include the use of flight simulators and part-task trainers to aid in developing the students' skills and knowledge. Still, the most common place for giving flight instruction has been and still is the airplane itself, a noisy, vibrating, unstable environment with the ever-present threat of bodily harm if one errs too greatly - not the best training environment.
The preponderance of persons providing flight instruction are relatively new pilots, flight instructors who are in the business, not to become professional flight instructors but, to gain flight hours so that they can apply for jobs as professional pilots with airlines or other commercial ventures. Due to the economics of the situations, highly experienced flight instructors move up to supervisory or managerial positions in flight training academies/schools and generally have little contact with novice flight students. Occasionally one might find a retired professional pilot giving flight instruction at a local airfield because of the love of flying and desire to share their years of experience with persons just starting their years of flying.
With the ever-increasing role of computers in our everyday lives, it is natural to expect them to enter