Advance Aviation Training Device (AATD) Improves Pilot Skills and Aviation Safety


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC), and the aviation industry are working together on key initiatives to improve general aviation safety.  One program that was initiated in 1996 was the FAA’s Pilot Proficiency Award Program (Wings).  It was later updated in 2007 and 2010. The purpose of the FAA’s Pilot Proficiency Award Program (Wings) is to promote air safety and encourages general aviation pilots to continue training and maintain proficiency.

Another initiative was the development of “Personal Minimums”.  Which is based on a simple principle of having a SOP (standard operating procedures) manual similar to what is required by charter companies, commuters, and the airlines.  Simply put, as long as the pilots are following the company SOP they will be in compliance with the FAR’s and company policies.  The SOP spell out minimum visibility requirements for takeoffs and landings, navigation requirements, flying around weather and much more.  The airline then trains their pilots to operate within the requirement of their SOP, testing them at regular intervals.

Many acronyms such as ADM, PAVE, IMSAFE, and CARE started to appear in training manuals.  The intent is to have flight instructors teach the meaning of these acronyms to improve the general aviation pilot decision making process. This is very similar to what United Airlines did in 1987 when they incorporated the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations providing Crew Resource Management (CRM) training for its cockpit and flight attendant crews. By the 1990s, this type of training had become the standard in the airline industry.

Crew Resource Management (CRM) is used primarily for improving air safety by helping to identify and eliminate human error.  CRM, as well as the FAA acronyms for general aviation pilots, focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership, self-awareness, flexibility, adaptability, event/mission analysis and decision-making skills before and during a flight.

In 2016 and 2017 the FAA began to move away from the PTS (practical test standards) to the ACS (Airman Certification Standards).  The new ACS has many good features that include defining the skills that are necessary for good ADM (Aeronautical Decision Making).  It is suggested that flight instructors begin using scenario based flight training to help the students learn ADM.  Scenario based training does work, but it adds flight time to the student and requires more planning from the instructor.  This sounds very familiar to what the airlines are doing while training and testing their flight crews.

The number of accidents and fatalities for general aviation has declined since 2015, but so have the estimated total general aviation flight hours. This is believed to be due to economic factors (FAA Fact Sheet, General Aviation Safety, dated July 26, 2017). 

Since the 1960’s the airlines have been experiencing a reduction of accidents and on-board fatalities (see the graphs below).  I believe there are many contributing factors, better aircraft design and improved avionics.  But the major contributing factors for their improvement is due to the use of flight simulators for pilot training, crew resource management (CRM) training, and scenario based training.


statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents Worldwide Operations | 1959 – 2016” produced by Boeing Aircraft Corporation.

In 1948, Curtiss-Wright delivered the first complete simulator to be owned by an airline to Pan America. It was designed for the Boeing Stratocruiser. There were no visual displays or motion but the entire cockpit instruments worked and the crews found it to be very effective.  In 1954, United Airlines bought the first of today’s modern flight simulators at a cost of $3 million from Curtiss-Wright.  The simulators were like the earlier models, with the addition of visuals, sound and movement.

To the public, flight simulators and AATD (Advance Aviation Training Device) with sound, motion and visuals may look like fancy, expensive computer games, but for pilot’s, simulators and AATD’s are a serious matter.   Within the airlines and corporate world flight simulators are used for training and pilot performance evaluations.  A big part of pilot training and performance evaluations focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership, self-awareness, flexibility, adaptability, event/mission analysis and decision-making skills before and during a flight, as well as, the mechanical skills required by the pilot.  By learning and practicing these skills in a flight simulator while performing normal and emergency procedures the pilots are learning how to recognize and prevent an unsafe condition from happening.  Flight simulators also allow the pilots to experience emergencies and non-normal conditions in a safe training environment.  AATD’s can provide the same quality of training that the airliners and corporate industries enjoy with their flight simulator.

By David Hoover,
Owner of Great Plains Enterprises, LLC,
Retired B767 Captain from ABX Air Inc. (Airborne Express), with over 20000 hours of flight time.
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificates, Ground Instructor, Helicopter, Remote Pilot, and Volunteer FAASTeam Rep.
Typed in B-767, B-757, DC-9, CV-600, and CV-640


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