FlightSafety International is revamping its classroom curricula to be more participatory and less pedagogical. The company says students learn more and faster by doing as opposed to listening to a traditional lecture. The theory is not new, but its application to typical ground school instruction, combined with high-tech training devices, is. “It’s a new approach to the way we deliver training,” said Greg McGowan, FlightSafety International (FSI) senior vice president of operations.
Under FSI’s “operational day flow” (ODF) concept, students get scenario-based training–once reserved for simulators–in the classroom blended with high-tech instructional aids such as FSI’s Matrix devices, graphical flight simulators (GFS) and large electronic instruction displays.
The Matrix system uses a three-screen display in front of each student and one or two larger displays in the front of the classroom that also can display video. Students can interact with the screens at their desktops, the instructor can walk around and monitor progress and, if there is a problem, operate the system from the front of the classroom. The Matrix system is being delivered with all new aircraft programs. The GFS replicates a cockpit layout using flat-panel touch screens that can be configured to approximate the instrument panels and switches of specific aircraft.
With Matrix, FSI ground school instructors can “operate systems in the cockpit, they can see diagrammatic flows, they can induce malfunctions,” said McGowan. “This gives them the chance to modify the facilitated scenario-based instruction and become much more effective. Over the course of the last year-and-a-half we put together some prototypes of different ways of integrating Matrix into more realistic training for both initial and recurrent students. We call this ‘operational day flow.’”
No longer are students left bleary-eyed by endless hours of lectures on aircraft systems and weight and balance. Under ODF, according to McGowan, “We look at a flight the way a pilot approaches it and [use] Matrix to the maximum extent possible. We cover all the aircraft systems by running into them and dealing with them as the flight progresses, similar to the way you would encounter them in the simulator.” There is one big difference: instructors can pause the “flight” to discuss systems and answer student questions, they can pull up system slides, review them and discuss standard operating procedures–such as safety management systems or risk analysis–during the flight.
Customers and Students Love It
“The customers love it and the instructors love it,” said McGowan. “People don’t talk a lot about the enjoyment aspect of training, but it is very important. I believe if someone enjoys the training, the more they learn and retain. With ODF, our clients enjoy the training more.”
McGowan said ODF also promotes greater student participation during classroom instruction. “Pilots enjoy interaction with their peers and that activity increases as decisions are made and lessons continue. We know that is one of the things they like–talking about their standard operating procedures, the decision chain and how mistakes are made. ODF promotes that sort of thing.”
The classroom courses still cover all of the lesson plan materials and meet regulatory scrutiny. Tests are still administered to verify comprehension. But McGowan thinks ODF provides a “much more realistic approach to training” and makes pilots more familiar with new and more sophisticated cockpits before they get in front of a GFS or into the simulator.
“We don’t spend as much time familiarizing people with the [aircraft] systems in the simulator because we have already covered that in the classroom in terms of both the geographical layout as well as system operation and technical aspects, so this has been very successful,” he said. “Not only do we save time, but we increase performance in the simulator. You no longer have to spend time on the simple things, now you have more time to work on the things the clients and the regulators want us to work on.”
McGowan said that, in the past, classroom training overemphasized the minutiae of aircraft systems. “As early as the Gulfstream GIV, we didn’t know how much we needed to teach people about the aircraft’s advanced systems, so we ended up teaching them way too much. By having the ability to load the flight plan in the classroom and see it progress, clients quickly realize what they need to operate the airplane from Point A to Point B. It reduces the stress level when they recognize what they need to fly the airplane 90 percent of the time.”
Currently, FSI has 14 ODF programs and expects to complete another nine by the end of this year. The company plans to add 34 more programs to that next year.
Logging GFS Time
In-class and after-class time in front of the touchscreen GFS also builds students’ confidence and familiarizes them with the aircraft before they get in the simulator, according to Jeff Froehlich, Cessna Citation CJ program manager at FSI’s Orlando Learning Center. “Remember that old instrument panel poster at the front of the classroom? This allows us to take that poster and make it come alive. Pilots’ minds are visual. We can demonstrate how an in-flight fire would look; they would see what the fire-extinguishing system actually does. The other nice thing is the FMS, it is fully integrated into the MFD.” The schematics and the FMS are the two main strengths of the GFS, in Froehlich’s opinion.
GFSs can be loaded to execute an actual flight from start to finish. While there is no representation of a control yoke–guaranteeing perfect takeoffs and landings–the switches, lights and memory items are all there. “Everything is in the right position” down to the arm rests, said Froehlich. “Everything the instructor can do in the sim he can do in here.”
GFSs are used in FSI’s Citation CJ courses from four to eight hours, but students have access to them after class for “free play.” Students can also use the Matrix displays to study during their own time.
“Pilots doing very well [in their training] spend more time in here [with the GFS],” Froehlich said. “You will see them in [the GFS] with their partner calling out things from the checklist. Sometimes it’s things they haven’t heard of before so they will ask about them in class the next day. You can sit in here and free play and flight plan and make all the mistakes you want in a nonintimidating environment.”
GFSs can rapidly be converted to display different aircraft models. Froehlich demonstrated a GFS set up to mimic a CJ3. “You can hook track balls into the device and it morphs into a [Citation] Sovereign in a couple of minutes,” he said.