Improper pilot decisions cause a significant percentage of all accidents and the majority of fatal accidents in light single-and twin-engine aircraft. The goal of SBT is to challenge the learner or transitioning pilot with a variety of flight scenarios to improve decision-making skills. These scenarios train the pilot to manage the resources available in the flight deck, consider hazards, exercise sound judgment, and make timely decisions that promote safety.

As defined in The Teaching Process, SBT is a training method that uses a highly structured script of real world experiences to address aviation training objectives in an operational environment. Such training can include initial training, transition training, upgrade training, recurrent training, and special training. Since humans develop cognitive skills through active interaction with the world, an effective aviation instructor uses the maneuver-or procedure-based approach but presents the objectives in a scenario situation.

Although some flight instructors have used the SBT approach as a teaching method for many years, the current emphasis on SBT in aviation training reflects education research that shows learning is more effective when participants are actively involved in the learning process.

Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM) requires the learner or transitioning pilot to practice the decision-making process in real-world situations, It combines traditional task and maneuver-based training with SBT to enhance ADM, risk management, and SRM skills without compromising basic aeronautical skills. Instead of training pilots to pass practical tests, this program focuses on expertly managed real-world challenges.

Duties, Responsibilities, and Authority of the Aviation Instructor

The duties, responsibilities, and authority of the aviation instructor include the following:

  1. Orient new learners to the SBT approach.
  2. Help the learner become a confident planner and a critical self-evaluator of performance.
  3. Help the learner understand the knowledge requirements present in real world applications.
  4. Diagnose learning difficulties and help the individual overcome them.
  5. Evaluate learner progress and maintain appropriate records.
  6. Provide continuous review of learning.

The aviation instructor is the key to the success of SBT. Remember, the overall learning objective is for the learner to be ready to exercise sound judgment and make good decisions. For example, the flight instructor should be ready to turn the responsibility for planning and execution of the flight over to the learner as soon as possible. The flight instructor continues to demonstrate and instruct skill maneuvers in the traditional manner; but, when the learner begins to make decisions, the flight instructor should revert to the role of mentor and learning facilitator.

SBT Lesson Plan

The SBT lesson plan differs from the traditional lesson plan. [Figure 1] In this example, the instructor pilot tells the learner to plan for arrival at a specific nontowered airport. The planning should take into consideration the possible wind conditions, arrival paths, airport information and communication procedures, available runways, recommended traffic patterns, courses of action, and preparation for unexpected situations. Upon arrival at the airport, the learner makes decisions (with guidance and feedback, as necessary) to safely enter and fly the traffic pattern. This is followed by a discussion of what was done, why it was done, the consequences, other possible courses of action, and how it applies to other airports. In contrast to the learner who trained under the traditional lesson plan, the learner who trains under the SBT format is not only capable of a specific flight maneuver, he or she is now capable of detailing a safe arrival at any nontowered airport in a variety of wind condition.

Planning Instructional Activity
Figure 1. SBT lesson plan

Pre-Scenario Planning

For SBT instruction to be effective, it is vital that the aviation instructor and learner establish the following information:

Flight scenario:

  • Scenario destination(s)
  • Desired learning outcomes
  • Desired level of learner performance
  • Possible inflight scenario changes

Nonflight scenario:

  • Narrative of the task goal
  • Desired learning outcomes
  • Desired level of learner performance
  • Possible scenario changes

The aviation industry is moving from traditional knowledge-related learning outcomes to an emphasis on increased internalized learning in which learners assess situations and react appropriately. Enhancement of knowledge and understanding usually accompanies a dynamic learning experience.

Reality is the ultimate learning situation and SBT attempts to get as close as possible to this ideal. It addresses learning that occurs in a context or situation. It is based on the concept of situated cognition, which is the idea that knowledge cannot be known and fully understood independent of its context. In other words, humans learn better from realistic situations where they are counted on to perform.

For example, realistic cross-country flight scenarios planned and executed by the pilot in training with assistance from the flight instructor begin the early development of flight deck management skills, situational awareness, and ADM. Continued engagement by the learner in the planning, executing, and assessment of each scenario reinforces development throughout the training. It is important to remember the learner is responsible for planning the flight scenario from a menu of short cross-country flights developed by the training provider. While the flight instructor will certainly assist the learner in aircraft performance data, weight and balance, and general aircraft layout prior to the first lesson, the sooner the learner assumes these responsibilities, the better the learning environment. The scenario descriptions offered in the FAA generic syllabi are a starting point for the training provider. Scenarios can be tailored for the local weather and terrain conditions and are most effective when they replicate the environment most likely encountered by the learners.SBT is a compilation of basic learning theory, adult learning concepts, and the best of the traditional aviation training procedures. Above all, it is about learning complex tasks in a realistic environment at a pace and in a structure the individual learner can comprehend and process. [Figure 2] Good teaching techniques are still important, but only if they aid in learning. More detailed information about SBT can be found at

Planning Instructional Activity
Figure 2. Points to remember about scenario-based training