I think we are all too familiar with the term ‘practice makes perfect’! It is a phrase that we have heard throughout our entire lives. I even remember my mother saying it to me when I could not make my superhero drawing look exactly like the one in the comic book – ‘practice makes perfect!’ she would say, much to my frustration. It is an expression that can be applied to a range of skills, from learning to draw all the way to using aircraft automation to successfully execute a challenging departure procedure.
I feel it is important to explore the opportunities presented through practical learning. We should be asking ourselves how we can integrate practical learning with modern technology to bring the classroom to life. The next generation of airline pilots are going to demand more than a stack of manuals, a whiteboard, and classroom instruction. They will expect interactive learning tools because that is the world they have been bought up in - a world of interactive whiteboards, tablets and smartphones. Throughout my experience as a pilot, and in pilot training environments, I have come to believe that pilots are often visual learners. Pictures, schematics, simulations, images and spatial understanding are well received by pilots during systems and procedure training. In other words, their learning style calls for practical learning, so to help them meet their full potential, we need to deliver training using this technique as much as possible.
Practical learning is defined as ‘learning by doing’. So how is it manifesting itself as tool in education across the globe and outside of pilot training? Well, primary school teachers are using practical methods to overcome language barriers faced by our ever-growing multicultural schools. Universities are increasing the amount of project-based and lab work to create more practical-based courses. Apprenticeships, although not a new concept, continue to be utilized in various industries and recently have seen the scope of such opportunities increase dramatically. As a further example, virtual reality (VR) continues to emerge as the technology of choice to accompany this boom of practical-based learning – and corporations such as DHL are using VR technologies to enhance logistics training, reportedly resulting in a reduction in costs while also improving training. It just goes to show that the applications, and the benefits, of practical learning are endless!
So how are we currently combining technology with practical learning in pilot training? One of our solutions is the Virtual Flight Deck, a training tool that gives ground school instructors the ability to use a high-fidelity aircraft simulation within the classroom setting. It is a tool that bridges the gap between the theoretical and practical learning experience during systems and procedures training. There is always the need to study and understand the theory behind all elements of pilots training, but the VFD allows instructors to bring that theory to life.
Although the Full Flight Simulator (or even high level Flight Training Devices) provide the capabilities to train systems and procedures knowledge, why not explore opportunities to bring that training earlier in the curriculum? If you have by chance read the book “Bounce” by Matthew Syed, then you know that he claims you need to build up 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in your field. Could you imagine doing 10,000 hours on a FFS? Let’s not even go in to cost! With the VFD, you can help increase the student’s efficiency prior to the FTDs and FFSs – a cost saver!
The VFD uses commercial off the shelf computer equipment and can be displayed via projector or monitors. Users control the aircraft through a digital flight deck where they can manipulate all the aircraft systems (such as hydraulics, fuel, avionics, etc), and see the corresponding results in the flight deck in real-time. Instructors can help pilots to understand the expected system outcomes, why such outcomes occur, and further actions that may be required, by highlighting system operation via the active schematics.
We have brought the cockpit into the classroom, giving both pilots and instructors the opportunity to interact with all aircraft systems without leaving the room, thus providing an opportunity to enhance systems knowledge and procedural training. We’ve embraced practical learning because we believe that practice makes perfect, and therefore practice makes better prepared pilots.
Jason Thompson - former DC-10 and B737NG Ground School Instructor