Why Pilot Training Needs To Change


Commercial airline pilots have a huge job. Not only do they operate an incredibly complex piece of machinery, but they're also responsible for the safety of often hundreds of people at a time. Statistically, flying has always been one of the safest ways to travel, but that's because it's performed by trained experts. But as the world of aviation changes, that training may not be enough anymore. Here's why commercial pilot training needs to improve in the future.

The Changing Skyscape

Technology progresses at an incredibly rapid rate. This is true of any field, but particularly aviation. Advancements in airplane technology are changing the way we fly. Commercial airplanes include more and more instruments, operating in increasingly complex ways. It makes for better, safer, smoother flights, but only if the pilots know how to operate their equipment properly.

Even more importantly, airspace itself is changing. The sky is becoming more crowded, and flight patterns are becoming more complicated. To top it off, within the next couple of years, several companies have plans to bring back supersonic commercial airplanes - previously discontinued for safety reasons. Even with the assumption that those original safety issues have now been overcome, having jets traveling through commercial airspace at those speeds will make the skyscape even more complex than ever before. 

As technology advances and situations change, training needs to change too. Today's commercial pilots need to be taught how to navigate these changes and keep their passengers and their aircraft safe. This means more than just teaching them new instruments and procedures. Pilots need to learn critical thinking skills with regards to the flights they operate. training needs to include how to assess and respond to unfamiliar or unexpected situations and adapt to the changes that are occurring.

Recent Pilot Training Changes

One issue with pilot training has, in fact, been addressed recently. Last year, the FAA implemented new rules that would reduce the financial burden for trainees.  In particular, they relaxed the rules regarding flight simulators and other aviation training devices. Now, an aviation instructor doesn't necessarily need to be present in order flight simulator training to count towards a pilot's experience. Not only will this reduce training costs, but it will also allow for more flexibility, which could help down the line in implementing the changes suggested above.

Additionally, sport pilot training can now be counted as flight experience towards a certification for commercial aviation and other higher ratings. Certifications can now be achieved using any combination of aircraft and/or aviation training devices.

Pilot training doesn't just teach pilots to fly planes. It helps them handle disasters, and ultimately saves lives. When Southwest 1380 experienced uncontained engine failure in 2018, it was Captain Tammie Jo Shults's training that helped her right the plane, land it safely, and ensure that medical help was waiting for the injured passengers, ultimately saving 148 lives.

Flight simulators help prepare pilots for this and countless other disaster situations. It allows them to run through the scenarios again and again, in a controlled environment so that if they encounter them in real life, they can keep calm amid the chaos and let their training take over, rather than being consumed by fear.

These changes to pilot training are a good start. They'll save a lot of money and make it easier for flight students to gain the experience they need. But it's only the beginning of what's needed. Training needs to be more comprehensive and be designed to help pilots adapt to shifting technologies and changing airspace. This will help make pilots more confident, more competent and make commercial air travel safer for everyone.

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