A flight instructor uses many instructional techniques during ground instruction, when using simulation, and during hands-on aircraft training. Since flight training costs are high and new aircraft are more complex than in the past, the total training experience should provide a solid base of knowledge and maximize the learner’s time without sacrificing the quality of the end product. This section looks at teaching techniques in greater detail.

Ground Instruction

Ground instruction can be highly effective if it follows an overall plan designed to prepare the learner for flight. In Planning Instructional Activity, Training Syllabus, Figure 1 shows a ground lesson that includes clear objectives. However, ground training objectives should be related to flight training objectives whenever possible. When elements are taught on the ground (as theory), their practice and application is also experienced in the air. The instructor should point out the connection between the theory and practice to maximize the benefit from integrated ground and flight instruction. [Figure 1]

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Figure 1. The learner prepares to execute a power-off stall maneuver in-flight that was taught in ground school

Additionally, ground instruction need not be in the classroom for maximum effectiveness. For example, conduct a preflight using an actual aircraft although initially taught in an academic setting. Additionally, when airspace is being taught an invaluable reinforcement of training includes taking the learners to ATC facilities where they can see management of the National Airspace System (NAS) from another perspective.

Studies have shown that a mix of instructional elements provides the best balance during ground instruction. Learners who use electronic media extensively are generally not as well trained as those who receive a balanced mix of ground teaching methods that include e-learning, class, and one-on-one instruction integrated with technological tools that support the instruction versus replacing it.

Ground instruction is a key element that sets the foundation and is critical to learner pilots becoming well educated and successfully transitioning into the flight environment. It should be deliberative, supportive of the learner’s interwoven flight education, and highly rewarding to both the learner and instructor(s) alike.

Use of Flight Simulation Training Devices

The FAA separates flight simulation trainers into three specific categories:

  • Full Flight Simulator (FFS)
  • Flight Training Device (FTD)
  • Aviation Training Device (ATD)

The National Simulator Program located in Atlanta, GA provides for the evaluation and qualification of FFSs and FTDs. 14 CFR part 60 provides the criteria for the qualification of FFSs [Figure 2] and FTDs [Figures 3 and 4] and further divides these qualifications as FFS Level A-D and FTD Level 4-7. A qualification letter is provided annually by the FAA to the operator and identifies the level of qualification. The level of approval affects what maneuvers or tasks may be accomplished in an FFS or FTD. These FAA-qualified trainers are collectively described in part 60 as Flight Simulation Training Devices (FSTD). Each device requires sponsorship by a part 119 certificate holder (part 135/121 operators), or a part 141/142 Pilot School/Training Center, and are most often used by the airlines or aviation colleges/universities. All training accomplished in FFSs and FTDs is part of an FAA-approved training program.

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Figure 2. A Level C simulator
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Figure 3. An example of a Level 6 Flight Training Device (FTD)
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Figure 4. A level 4 FTD used for procedure training

The General Aviation and Commercial Division located in Washington, DC provides for the evaluation and approval of ATDs. Advisory Circular AC 61-136, FAA Approval of Aviation Training Devices and Their Use for Training and Experience provides the criteria for ATD approvals and use, and further divides them into two categories; Basic or Advanced ATD approvals (BATD/AATD). The letter of authorization provided by the FAA to the manufacturer specifies the training credits or experience requirements that can be acquired using that model trainer. These training devices are predominately used by general aviation flight schools providing flight training under 14 CFR part 61 or part 141 regulations. ATDs cannot be used for airman practical tests or type rating training requirements.

Integrated Training Curricula

An integrated training curriculum can use an FFS, FTD, or ATD to provide seamless training from the classroom to the aircraft. An instructor initially provides the required knowledge in a classroom environment and then follows with procedural training in the simulator. For example, when utilizing an integrated ground and flight-training program, an authorized instructor would initially teach the required knowledge specific to instrument landing system (ILS) design, and the associated flight operations through ground and classroom training. The instructor then provides instruction on aircraft flight procedures and details specific to operations in national airspace system. After the learner has gained the required knowledge and understands the procedures, the instructor then adds practicing the psychomotor skills of the task in the simulator. The instructor would then demonstrate and teach the instrument approach task to the learner simulating the flight environment in a FAA-qualified trainer. When the student becomes proficient with the instrument procedure in the simulator, the instruction would then transition to the aircraft to verify proficiency and reinforce the airman certification standards. Most operational tasks and procedures for private pilot certificates, instrument ratings, commercial pilot certificates, and airline transport pilot certificates can be initially taught in an FFS, FTD, or ATD.

Logging Training Time and Experience

Instructors or pilots logging time in an FFS or FTD should log and record the FAA ID number or serial number of the device being used for training. FSTDs are re-qualified on an annual basis and users should verify the qualification is current and valid. When logging training time in an ATD, pilot time is logged as a basic aviation training device (BATD) or advanced aviation training device (AATD) time, and the pilot record should identify the manufacturer and model of the ATD trainer. Letters of authorization (LOAs) for ATD’s are valid for five years and a copy of the LOA should be retained by the pilot in training.

Pilot time logged in an FFS, FFS, or ATD must be recorded as prescribed in 14 CFR part 61, section 61.51(h). The maximum credit permitted for certificates and ratings is identified in part 61 and 141. However, there is no limit on how much time can be logged in an FFS, FTD, or ATD. The FAA recommends that training should continue in the simulator until the required tasks are accomplished successfully, before attempting the same tasks in an aircraft.

On-Aircraft Training

On-aircraft training is the continuation of work that is initiated on the ground and part of the integrated training process. As indicated in Planning Instructional Activity, the instructor must plan the flight given to the learner to the same extent as the learner who prepares for it. Just as it is important to have objectives for ground instruction, it is equally important that the flight instruction have objectives and a syllabus paired with previous instruction given on the ground (to include academic training). Flight training is not a one size fits all and often must be tailored for the individual. For example, satisfactory progress in learning stalls through flight instruction “only” would be diminished as compared to discussing them on the ground; inclusive of the types, stalls, and their aerodynamic basis. Just because the learner has received ground school instruction on a particular aspect, the instructor should always review that same task with the learner before flight to reinforce the learning process as necessary. [Figure 5]

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Figure 5. Reinforcing what the learner was taught on the ground is critical to learner knowledge

On-aircraft training is integrated with ground instruction and not autonomously separate and distinct. By pairing flight and ground instruction together, the learner will advance further, faster, and attain more of the educational goals the instructor tries to impart.