Remote CFI – New Opportunities In Aviation

I know what you are thinking. “Will these remote CFI hours count toward my 1500 for the airlines? Not likely, but this new technology provides great opportunities for “remote learners.” The challenge will be balancing the acquisition of basic piloting skills with scenario-based judgment to create an effective learning experiences. And all this is a perfect extension of the original Pilot Proficiency model.

Mainstream GA was introduced to scenarios in 2010 with the Pilot Proficiency Project. This initiative, launched over 10 years ago with the then-brand-new Redbird simulator, built a new awareness and excitement in the aviation industry (and FAA literature – esp. the FAA Aviation News) for a new way of teaching.  At that time, mainstream aviation education had not changed much since the WWII pilot training; based largely on rote repetition and a behavioral model of learning (good dog/bad dog). Suddenly general aviation had TAA aircraft with glass panels displays, GPS  point to point navigation and full-motion simulators; a whole new world.

At the same time as all this new technology arrived,  aviation education was also discovering cognitive psychology and there was a crazy over-emphasis on scenario training and “learner-centered experiential flight training.” Aviation became in some places “fantasy flight training” with every lesson a fun Disney-like adventure; no struggle or work necessary! Training courses and books made *everything* from lesson one into a fun/discovery scenario. Educators were introducing repeated cross-country dual experiences from lesson #1 with the mistaken idea that flight students would acquire fundamental skills through some kind of osmosis. This method failed. Not only did this method often double the cost of a pilot certificate, but savvy educators also discovered a serious lack of fundamental skills in pilots trained with these methods. The Loss of Control-InFlight epidemic is probably partly a result.

Let’s remember what history says about our noble endeavors to deemphasize the basics in hopes of accelerating a student’s development. The Whole Language vs. Phonics reading debacle is a good example. At one time, educators tried to accelerate reading development in young people by forgoing sounding out phonemes, the basic parts of a word (phonics). Instead, they had them decode whole words and phrases (whole language) as they were encountered in the meaningful context of a text. While the intentions were noble, millions of young people failed to learn how to read properly. We can’t expect students to learn efficiently if we fail to emphasize the basic skills first.

Though scenarios have a very important role to play in later flight training and especially testing, (ACS in 2016) fundamentals still need to be taught with effective drill and repetition to build the basic skills and understanding (see “why Johnny can’t turn“). Just like all motor-skill activities from learning piano to motorcycle racing, a learner has to work on and develop some basic fundamentals through drill and repetition before the more elaborate and complex scenarios have value – learning scales and building implicit knowledge before attempting Mozart. Incremental mastery can blend scenarios with repetitive skill-building to create the most powerful progress.

Technology has amazingly useful applications when deployed by talented, creative educators. Mike McCurdy at CHS Flight School has revisioned the Redbird for use in drill and repetition training for super-efficient early learning. In his primary flight training method, you do not get near an airplane (wasting time and $$) until you have achieved a basic level of proficiency on every maneuver first in a Redbird. His program is the perfect expression of The Talent Code. The Redbird GIFT (Guided Independent Flight Training) program is a similar focus but delivering high-quality remote training directly to the learner in a Redbird. Cloud Ahoy’s “CFI Assistant” provides a creative flight tool that recognizes and rates your live aircraft performance from GPS tracking data. This program will even assign a grade to your maneuvers (if you want it). You can even get an insurance discount through our SAFE insurance program with Starr Insurance (see new StarrGate App) for proficiency.

We are at another crossroads now with COVID quarantine and the widespread use of remote conferencing technologies. There is a huge push to effectively leverage these technological tools for valid remote educational experiences. Every pilot can now log on with a remote educator and fly a flight lesson in an advanced simulator (and even receive FAA WINGS credit). Billy Winburn is at the center of this initiative with Community Aviation and EAA Proficiency 365. He presented a demonstration of these tools at our SAFE CFI-PRO™ in KFDK last fall. Remote instruction provides a personalized educational experience utilizing the same scenarios (and more) developed in the original Pilot Proficiency Project. This is now EAA Proficiency 365. Remote one-on-one training has great potential to provide access to training and safety. As in all personalized instruction, the effectiveness depends on the skill and creativity of the presenter.

For better or worse, aviation is very honest and unforgiving when it comes to deciding who is truly capable and skilled. It weeds out the weak pilots in a merciless fashion. Since flying charter, I have come to respect and appreciate good simulator training and all the valuable experiences technology makes available for less money and with less danger. Whether remote technologies will achieve this level of excellence and true learning will be the challenge of the next few years. Fly safe out there (and often)- safety favors the conscientious and current pilot!


Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This also has all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and required experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM

About the author

David St. George

David St. George is an FAA DPE (Sport to Multi ATP) and a Part 135 charter pilot flying the Pilatus PC-12 in the NYC area. He recently renewed his Master Instructor for the tenth time and is a Charter member of SAFE. Formerly a 141 Chief Instructor for over 25 years, with a Gold Seal CFI. David started flying at 16 and has logged over 15,000 hours. He owns a 1946 7AC Aeronca Champ and wrote the SAFE Toolkit app.


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