Flight schools and airlines once enjoyed a cooperative relationship. Airlines created a steady demand for pilots and flight schools groomed candidates to meet it. That was until the demand became insatiable. Now the relationship is increasingly competitive. Flight schools and airlines are engaged in a never-ending game of tug-of-war for qualified employees. While each party’s behavior is both predictable and understandable, the problem is clear: it’s unsustainable. The aviation industry is cutting off its legs. Solving the problem will be equal parts complex, challenging, and time-consuming. Adjusting to it is simpler: we need to rethink our instructional design.
In the last decade, inverted learning—or “flipping the classroom”—has emerged in K-12 and university settings as an alternative approach to instructional design. In a “flipped” learning model students get exposure to new material outside the classroom allowing a teacher to utilize class time to help students assimilate and apply the material. Using video lectures, online courseware, and peer-to-peer instruction, traditional educational institutions have been able to complement the instruction of their teachers and adjust to teacher shortages. Now, flight training organizations can follow suit. With Redbird’s Guided Independent Flight Training (GIFT), flight schools have the tools they need to invert their training programs and allow student pilots to learn new skills on their own. This approach helps training organizations counteract the CFI shortage in several ways.
By utilizing GIFT in its training, a flight school can expect to add one to two students per flight instructor. GIFT assumes the tedious role of introducing students to concepts and developing proficiency through repetition. It includes modules that cover each maneuver and skill required to earn a Private Pilot Certificate or an Instrument Rating. Each module begins with a video and written material that a student can study at home. Modules also incorporate simulated missions to develop the student’s familiarity with a skill. With an AI-powered flight instructor that provides real-time coaching and corrections, GIFT enables students to develop proficiency by getting immediate feedback and repeating tasks until mastered. After each flight, GIFT generates a score based on the FAA Airman Certification Standards. That way, the instructor knows which areas require attention and can tailor in-person training accordingly.
Collaboration among student pilots is a missed opportunity in many flight schools. Flipping the instructional design of the training program allows students to learn and study with one another. They can fly GIFT missions with each other and help reconcile mistakes. This helps students extend their critical thinking about aviation beyond the confines of instructor time and aircraft availability. CFIs aren’t the only ones who can encourage and support the growth of student pilots.
When instructor turnover is a problem, student progress also is a concern. If instructors are the single source of information about student progress, then issues arise if they resign. At best, new instructors will need to thoroughly evaluate the student’s abilities and decision-making before moving on to new material. This takes time and it relies on a new instructor having a firm grasp of a flight school’s training standards. At worst, the new instructor retraces steps and the student becomes discouraged. With GIFT, instructors can track a student’s lesson history and scores. The data offer an objective measurement of student progress. So, even as students move on to new instructors, certificates, or ratings, their GIFT data provide evidence of progress and areas for improvement.
Many of our industry’s revered innovations are responses to what once seemed like insurmountable obstacles. Here we are again. Flight schools have a valuable opportunity to innovate how pilots are trained. For the good of our industry, let's flip it on its head.