With Flying Hours Restricted, Simulation and Information Evaluation Help Pilot Coaching

AURORA, Colo.—The Air Power’s pilot coaching and security enterprise is within the midst of a pivotal transition, with knowledge analytics and high-tech simulators gaining floor however restricted flying hours and associated price range pressures a unbroken situation, high generals mentioned on the AFA Warfare Symposium. 

The Air Power’s continued pilot scarcity is among the many drivers for change, as leaders search to speed up pilot manufacturing utilizing new coaching approaches and qualification procedures. Certainly, even when these modifications do yield extra new pilots, the Air Power isn’t essentially prepared for all of them, mentioned Lt. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife, deputy chief of workers for operations. 

“We have now a well-established assemble for the way we produce and take in new pilots into our squadrons,” Slife mentioned throughout a March 7 panel dialogue. “You possibly can’t have a C-17 Squadron filled with copilots with no plane commanders. And so there’s a restrict to what number of new copilots that may are available in.” 

These limits, he defined, are primarily the variety of flying hours a pilot has and the usual of expertise the service units for a pilot to then be thought of absolutely certified and absorbed.  

“And if the [Air Education and Training Command] manufacturing pipeline might produce extra pilots, we might have a tough time absorbing them within the operational squadrons,” Slife mentioned. 

Restricted flying hours out there to maintain pilots proficient stay a difficulty. These numbers have been steadily declining for years, with the flying hours program having traditionally been a invoice payer for different sustainment accounts.  

There are three elements in play affecting the flying hours scarcity, Slife indicated: 

  • The each day price of fuels and consumables; 
  • The longer-term prices of weapons system sustainment in depots; 
  • A scarcity of upkeep manpower. 

That ultimate situation may be a very powerful. “It takes about seven years to create a crew chief,” Slife famous, some extent reiterated in a separate occasion by Air Power Chief of Employees Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.: “As you take a look at our plane, they’re breaking a bit extra, taking longer to repair, and the expertise stage of our maintainers just isn’t what it was over the previous few many years,” Brown advised reporters. “In order that’s a mix of issues that grind down plane availability.”

Whereas giving extra money to the flying hours program would offer a short-term increase, Slife warned that investments in sustainment and upkeep personnel are wanted to stop different long-term points—and officers are working to quantify these dangers in order that decision-makers could make more-informed price range decisions. 

“All of those variables are knowable issues. I imply, it’s not a thriller,” Slife mentioned. “That is the way it works. It will get difficult within the particulars. And what we want is we have to make the most of all the information that we’ve collected through the years about how these variables work together and have an effect on … the top outcome.” 

As soon as instruments are developed to interpret that knowledge, service leaders can determine learn how to prioritize completely different accounts. Good knowledge could be leveraged in quite a few methods. Defined Brown: “Due to the information, we are able to now check out different issues we are able to do, different levers we are able to pull to have a greater understanding that may assist improve the variety of combat hours per thirty days.”


Growing flying hours just isn’t a cure-all, mentioned Maj. Gen. Jeannie M. Leavitt, the Division of the Air Power’s Chief of Security. “Everybody want to see a direct correlation as a result of that makes it very easy—extra flying hours [equals] much less mishaps,” Leavitt mentioned. “It’s not that simple.” 

As an alternative, Leavitt highlighted different elements in bettering security—and serving to the pilot corps enhance. Her first instance is one which Slife and AETC commander Lt. Gen. Brian S. Robinson additionally highlighted: superior simulators. 

“We’ve discovered that the extra usually you stimulate the cognitive expertise for anyone, both in flying expertise or regardless of how heavy or evenly the contact labor side is, the extra comfy the scholars are in coaching once they truly get into the platform … as a result of they’ve seen it earlier than, and expectations are formed,” Robinson mentioned. “They’ve heard it earlier than. They’ve been capable of make selections on the eventualities that we’ve been capable of current via immersive coaching technological options.” 

Equally, Slife famous that pilots now get into plane higher capable of deal with studying methods as a substitute of spending time getting acclimated. 

The Air Power is relying on superior simulators, in addition to augmented and digital actuality, to play a key function in pilot manufacturing as a part of its “Undergraduate Pilot Coaching 2.5” program 

Nonetheless, Leavitt additionally emphasised the significance of “stability” in pilot coaching and security.  

“On the finish of the day, we additionally must rise up there,” she mentioned. 

But even when pilots are up within the sky, there are methods for superior applied sciences to make a distinction, all three generals agreed. Specifically, they cited a comparatively new observe of analyzing plane flight knowledge. 

“When you consider flight knowledge recorders and voice recorders, it’s usually within the aftermath of the crash, you go discover the field, you pull it out, determine what occurred and why the airplane crashed,” Slife mentioned. “However what we’ve discovered is we are able to truly accumulate knowledge off this stuff, of every sortie, and search for coaching traits. And you’ll say, ‘OK, what number of unstable approaches do we’ve inside the ultimate method section? What number of occasions can we see a financial institution angle that exceeds no matter it’s? … And I’ll inform you, that basically offers you some nice insights into the coaching packages you could have.” 

Robinson mentioned that in a single occasion, AETC went again and examined knowledge main as much as a C-17 mishap and realized that, had they analyzed the pilot’s earlier flights, they may have recognized an issue that contributed to the accident and made corrections earlier than it ever occurred. 

With the flexibility to investigate knowledge, Slife mentioned, new methods of desirous about learn how to use it are wanted. “We’re dwelling in an fascinating time due to the appearance of applied sciences which can be actually going to vary our historic fashions for absorption and manufacturing [of new pilots].”