FITS and Scenario Development
by Tom Glista
Reprinted with permission from FAA
Training Standards (FITS) team has been out putting on Pilot Proficiency Program
(WINGS) approved FITS instructor seminars across the country over the past year.
One of the most interesting aspects is what instructors think they understand,
but don't. During the last three seminars we asked, by a show of hands, who uses
scenario-based training? Most instructors raised their hands. But, by the end of
the seminar, many of these same instructors were asking us if there is a
database of scenarios they can use. What they thought was scenario-based
training, really wasn't. This article is about how to develop scenarios to meet
lesson (learning) objectives.
But first, why haven't we developed a bank of
scenarios? Three reasons: time, money, and specificity. Considering the FITS
program was just an idea four years ago we have made great strides working with
industry partners, developing curricula, working Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA)
issues, developing lessons learned, partnering with aircraft manufacturers, and
training providers, etc. We had to work the big issues first. The second is
competing priorities within the FAA. With limited resources we must prioritize
our work. Developing a bank of scenarios has not risen in the priority level to
fund. Third is specificity. FITS philosophy is one size does NOT fit all.
Training should meet the needs of the pilot. There are so many possible
permutations it could take years to develop a comprehensive bank of scenarios.
It's like the old saying, 'How do you want it'good, fast, or cheap? Pick two.'
Scenario-based training is a training system
that uses a highly structured script of real-world experiences to address
flight-evaluation in an operational environment. The key words here are 'highly
structured' and 'real world.' The instructor must structure the scenario to meet
the desired training objective of that lesson. A loosely developed scenario is
easily brought off track and the training objective may not be reached. And, of
course, it has to be real. The intensity principal of learning implies that the
student will learn more from the real thing than a substitute. Also, failures
must be realistic. An engine failure, in instrument conditions, with severe
icing, and a dual screen failure is not realistic.
Consider the following example: The flight
instructor provides a detailed explanation on how to control for wind drift. The
explanation includes a thorough coverage of heading, speed, angle of bank,
altitude, terrain, and wind direction plus velocity. The explanation is followed
by a demonstration and repeated practice of a specific flight maneuver, such as
turns around a point or S turns across the road, until the maneuver can be
consistently accomplished in a safe and effective manner within a specified
limit of heading, altitude, and airspeed. At the end of this lesson, the student
is only capable of performing the maneuver.
Now, consider a different example. The student
is asked to plan for an arrival at a specific uncontrolled 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 student 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,
and other possible courses of action and how it applies to other airports. At
the end of this lesson the student is capable of explaining safe arrival at any
uncontrolled airport in any wind condition.
The first example is one of traditional learning
where the focus is on the maneuver. The second is an example of scenario-based
learning, where the focus is on real world performance. Many learning developers
in flight training have built on the former option. Traditional training methods
in many instances are giving way to more realistic and fluid forms of learning.
The industry is moving from traditional knowledge-related learning outcomes to
an emphasis on increased internalized learning in which learners are able to
assess situations and appropriately react. Knowledge components are becoming an
important side effect of a dynamic learning experience.
Reality is the ultimate learning situation and
scenario-based training attempts to get as close as possible to this ideal. In
simple terms, scenario based training 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, the more realistic the situation is and the more we are
counted on to perform, the better we learn. Simply put, train the way you fly,
and fly the way you train.
Now think about this. Which pilot has more
experience and which one would you trust to fly a loved one to a destination?
Pilot number one has 500 hours, but has spent most of the last 400 hours in the
local area or doing touch and goes. Pilot number two has 250 hours, but has
spent the last 200 hours flying across the country. Although pilot number one
has more flight time, pilot number two has more experience. Scenario-based
training more quickly develops the student's experience. Students are exposed to
more situations in a shorter amount of time than the traditionally trained
Now let's construct a couple of scenarios. This
first scenario is for a student pilot training for a private pilot certificate.
The lesson objectives are to develop proficiency in ground reference maneuvers,
stalls, and slow flight. The day before you call or e-mail your student that the
scenario will be that you are a news photographer who is doing a story on a
nearby town that was flooded the day before. (Use your imagination, the camera
crew is heading to an accident site, doing beach reports, pipeline patrol,
taking photo of wild life, fish/animal counting'anything that would
realistically require flight around 1,000' AGL.) Your student arrives for the
flight with a flight plan. The flight plan should include performance planning,
a risk assessment, fuel requirements, weight and balance, etc. During the
flight, you pick out objects that need to be photographed that would require
circling around the object (turns around a point, s-turns, and eights), and
flying along property lines (rectangular course). You, as the photographer (and
yes, bring a camera), can apply situations that would require aeronautical
decision-making and risk management by the student. You tell your student that
you cannot get the shot you absolutely must have unless you fly lower (below
safe minimums). Put pressure on the student, if you don't go lower, you will
complain to the pilot's boss and will not pay for the flight. After that portion
of the flight, on the way home, you can climb to altitude and practice the
flight maneuvers. There are some things that must be done in a non-scenario
environment for safety sake. Do not do accelerated stalls on base to final. But
good ground school training with 'what if' scenarios can help explain why we
practice certain maneuvers.
Another flight scenario. Your student is working
on an instrument rating. The lesson objectives are GPS and VOR navigation,
non-precision approaches, and equipment failure. Again, the day before the
flight you call or e-mail your student the mission. The student needs to pick up
his/her mother at airport AXX and fly to airport BXX for his/her sister's
wedding. The student again arrives with a plan that includes performance
planning, a risk assessment, fuel requirement, weight and balance, etc. As an
instructor you may need to provide fictitious weather for this scenario. En
route the instructor can play controller and/or Flight Watch bringing the
weather down to a point where a decision needs to be made whether to divert. If
they do divert, what about Mom? What about the wedding? They are depending on
the transportation. Did the student prepare alternate plans? Other realistic
situations can be thrown in. For example, loss of RAIM (Receiver Autonomous
Integrity Monitoring), the wind-favored runway is closed, PFD or vacuum system
failure, flying a DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) arc, holding, etc. The
student not only meets the objectives of the flight, but the student is also
demonstrating and developing risk management and aeronautical decision making
skills. The student will also demonstrate single pilot resource management with
the appropriate use of automation by getting weather en route (either through
air traffic control/Flight Watch or data link on the Primary Flight Display or
PFD), prioritizing tasks, etc.
Appropriate scenarios are dependent on aircraft
type, aircraft systems (complex, high performance, glass cockpit, etc.), where
the student is in the training process (private pilot not yet soloed or a CFI
preparing for the practical test), environment (mountainous terrain or flat
lands), or what type of flight it is (e.g. flight review, instrument proficiency
flight), and what is the objective of the lesson. The possible combinations and,
therefore, possible scenarios are almost endless. For ideas on scenarios look at
14 CFR sections 119.1(d) and (e). It describes both commercial and
non-commercial operations. For ground reference maneuvers there are banner
towing, aerial photography or survey, pipeline patrol, and sight seeing flights.
For high performance maneuvers, you can consider aerial applications. For short
and soft field takeoffs and landings, cross wind operations, operations in
different classes of airspace, IFR operations (including approaches), or cross
country scenarios, you might think about delivery of human organs for
transplants, package delivery, or taking the boss to a meeting. Flight schools
should develop banks of scenarios to meet the needs of their clients.
Of course, scenarios alone do not make FITS
training. I will discuss another FITS tenet in my next article. Fly safe.
Tom Glista is an Aviation Safety Inspector in
Flight Standards Service's General Aviation and Commercial Division and is the
FITS Program Manager.