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Paul Novacek, M.A.S., MCFI
VP – Product Development, ElectronicFlight Solutions Inc.
Former NASA Human Factors Researcher

Confusion often exists between the various cockpit training devices and the environments that best utilize their strengths. With the initial purchase of new avionics equipment or a new aircraft that requires familiarization training, there are three phases of the training program; pre-delivery, guided onsite and post delivery. Pre-delivery training builds on the existing knowledge and skills to prepare the pilot for an efficient on-site training experience. This pre-delivery training is necessary to bring the pilot “up to speed” with the equipment before arriving at the factory to receive specific, hands-on training. At aircraft delivery, the pilot uses that knowledge to efficiently proceed through the training at a pace that does not overwhelm the pilot. Post-delivery training is the period where all the previous training is honed and practiced until the pilot becomes fully familiar and competent in the new aircraft. Each training period requires specific techniques and different training materials.

Free-play Simulators
Simulators are devices that exactly replicate the operation of the actual device. They make excellent training devices when used in the training environment for which they were designed — namely in an instructor-monitored and scenario-based environment. Because they are free-play, the user is presented with the exact responses encountered in the real aircraft

Simulators are an excellent training tool for the on-site training phase when a pilot is introduced to the new aircraft. They are effective only under the following two conditions, 1) an instructor monitors all the actions by the student to provide the necessary feedback and guidance and, 2) appropriate and concept-based lesson plans are used to provide scenario-based exercises.

What makes simulator-based training effective also makes them expensive to implement. Specifically, the full-time employment of a dedicated instructor to monitor the pilot’s use of the simulator and correct any mistakes. Thus, preventing any bad habits from forming and ensuring that all of the required tasks are learned to proficiency. A pilot left alone with a simulator without the guidance of an instructor will undoubtedly form bad habits that will lead to future problems and a possible accident. In addition, training solo on a free-play simulator does not hold the pilot accountable to any standards because a testing mechanism is not present. Additionally, the fundamental knowledge required to proficiently operate the controls is not taught. A simulator only teaches step-by-step procedures, which has been proven in studies to lead to multiple errors and confusion when unforeseen situations arise. Furthermore, procedures taught in a step-by-step methodology are not absorbed efficiently and need constant reinforcement and recurrent training.

Pre-Delivery Training
As is often the case, pilots exposed to new avionics equipment are often overwhelmed with the complexity and sheer amount of information that needs to be absorbed. Combined with a relatively short on-site training program, most pilots concede that it’s like “drinking from a fire hose.” Humans have a limit of the rate at which they can comprehend and absorb new information. More experienced and higher educated pilots have a faster rate of absorption, but the actual rate of material absorption cannot be predicted with any semblance of accuracy. There are just too many variables. To overcome this problem, the training of new material needs to be spread-out over a greater period of time. Thus decreasing the rate of delivery, which leads to an increase in absorption.

An efficient method to spread-out this training is to provide pre-delivery training to new aircraft customers. Various methods have been used in the past, such as mailing paper manuals or training books, but this has typically not been very successful. Mostly because of the reluctance to take the time to study the manuals and attempt to correlate all the information. Additionally, without being held accountable by testing, there is little incentive to read the manuals. With the advent of computer-based training, a more dynamic and thorough training program greatly eases the burden of learning new avionics equipment.

ElectronicFlight Solutions offers the type of computer-based training that uses emulators, or part-task trainers, that teach specific techniques with a building-block methodology. Using a three-element approach to training, every ElectronicFlight course teaches, 1) the overall concepts behind the operation of the avionics unit, 2) the learning of small common tasks that form the building blocks for procedures, and 3) plenty of guided practice on specific procedures to strengthen the foundation. All three of these elements are interspersed throughout the training.

By providing a new customer with the background information and competency of the avionics, countless hours can be saved in the on-site training phase. Additionally, a more thorough understanding of the operation is achieved which leads to safer operation during the entire course of aircraft ownership.

Therefore, each type of training method has its merits. Simulators are used as training tools in the on-site phase and require constant monitoring by a qualified instructor. Part-task and emulator-based training from ElectronicFlight gives the pilot a thorough understanding of the new avionics equipment long before taking delivery of the new aircraft. Thus, saving time, money and ensuring that better trained pilots leave with their new aircraft.