FAA/Industry Training Standards - An
Improved General Aviation Training Paradigm
by Thomas Glista
Reprinted with permission from
FAA Aviation News
training within the general aviation (GA) community has reached a
critical juncture. While the industry as a whole enjoys an admirable
safety record, recent statistics show an increase in both total and
fatal GA accidents This fact, coupled with the proliferation of
advanced technologies in new and older (traditional) small aircraft
cockpits, has led the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take a
critical look at how pilots are trained.
Look into the cockpit of a traditional
general aviation airplane or even a vintage aircraft and you're likely
to see a panel-mounted GPS that incorporates a moving map display. In
fact, most of the current major manufacturers of general aviation
aircraft have, or plan to have aircraft with full 'glass panel'
cockpit displays available. 'Glass panel' refers to the aircraft's
primary flight information (attitude, and airspeed) and the navigation
information (your relative position to airports, navaids, airways,
waypoint, terrain, and data-linked weather, etc.) being displayed on
two flat panel video displays - the Primary Flight Display (PFD) and
the Multi-Function Display (MFD), respectively .Though these
technically advanced systems have previously been the sole domain of
airlines and larger corporate jets; they will soon become the standard
in new small single engine aircraft and the coming very light jets.
In the past, GA aircraft cockpit
displays, avionics and navigation equipment all looked the same and
worked much the same no matter who manufactured the unit (i.e. a VOR
head was a VOR head. You've seen one; you've seen them all.) Advanced
technology systems and displays, on the other hand look different and
the way the pilot uses them may differ. Programming a KLN 90B will be
different from a Garmin 430. Pilot interaction with the 'full glass'
Garmin G1000 will be different from the interaction with the 'full
glass' Avidyne FlightMax Entegra. This means a renter who checks out
in a Diamond DA 40 with the Garmin G1000 cockpit may find the
transition to an Avidyne-equipped Cirrus SR-20 may be a significant
Today's regulations do not require a
pilot to be formally tested or even have an instructor endorsement
when transitioning from one of these airplanes to another. In order to
maintain and increase flight safety, a change in the general aviation
training culture needs to take place.
To understand why such a profound
change is needed, consider that flight training has changed very
little since the dawn of regulated aviation. In fact, a private pilot
trained to standards outlined in the Civil Aeronautics Regulations,
circa the 1940's, would likely do quite well in most operations
required by today's FAA practical test standards. This is because many
of the basic skills needed to pilot an aircraft have changed very
little. However, the development of new technologies and a rapidly
evolving airspace system have outpaced current training methods.
Moreover, the FAA and the flight training community now have over a
century's worth of experience upon which to draw when determining how
best to train pilots. While the military and airline communities have
leveraged this experience, the general aviation community has been
slow to make use of the lessons learned.
To that end, the FAA has partnered
with industry to develop the FITS program. FITS, or FAA/Industry
Training Standards, offer an improved training paradigm that embraces
concepts such as risk management, aeronautical decision-making,
situational awareness, and single-pilot resource management. The
airlines, military, and corporate aviation (who have the best safety
records) have embraced these concepts for years. Instead of treating
each of these concept elements as a separate or stand-alone lesson,
scenario-based training will be used to efficiently integrate these
important concepts into every instructional exercise. The military
uses the expression 'train the way you fly and fly the way you're
trained.' This is the direction in which GA needs to move.
As a result of our current training
paradigm, the vast majority of fatal GA accidents were found to
involve a lack of situational awareness, risk assessment/management,
and poor aeronautical decision-making. Pilot training standards focus
less on these factors and more on the development of mechanical
('stick and rudder') skills. While such skills are vitally important,
most fatal accidents are not a result of deficiencies in these skills.
The FITS program is working to take the best practices of the
airlines, military, and corporate jets operators, and tailor them to
the GA environment, while increasing safety and convenience and
reducing the time and cost of training.
Another factor in the genesis of FITS
is the development of Very Light Jets (VLJ). These small (12,500 lbs
or less) jets will be certificated for operations by a single pilot.
There are many VLJs in various stages of development. These include
the Adam Aircraft A700, ATG Javelin, Avocet Projet, Century Jet,
Cessna Mustang, Diamond Aircraft D-Jet, Eclipse 500, Honda Jet, and
Safire Jet. The relatively low cost of the VLJs combined with
pilot-flown shared ownership options, may result in relatively
inexperienced pilots transitioning from a light piston engine twin to
a VLJ, each having substantially different operational capabilities.
Except for an initial type rating, VLJs do not require an annual
proficiency check (Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations '61.58). They
only require the standard flight review required by 14 CFR '61.56. We
believe that taking a flight review every two years in a Cessna 172
and flying off in your Cessna Mustang is not the safest way to
operate. So the FITS team has been working with many of these VLJ
manufacturers to develop valuable and appropriate training that 'FITS'
the requirements of the operator.
The FITS technical team has produced a
series of generic training syllabi for piston airplanes-transition,
recurrent and instructor. These, along with other FITS accepted
documents, can be downloaded at
We encourage flight instructors and
pilot schools to use these generic syllabi to develop a FITS
curriculum for their operations. To assist in the development of these
syllabi, the FITS technical team is developing a FITS training guide
and a course developer's guide for instructors and training providers.
To apply for FITS acceptance, you must submit your syllabus to the
FITS program manager. It must be understood that an operator can
receive FITS acceptance on any syllabus if it adheres to the FITS
tenets. It must also be understood that an operator is not required to
use the generic syllabi the FITS team developed. We developed them as
a tool, not as a requirement. The FITS web site contains guidance that
includes FITS acceptance criteria. This contains the FITS tenets the
FITS technical team is looking for when evaluating syllabi for FITS
There are other products and tools
currently under development by the FITS team. These include
transition, recurrent, and instructor syllabi for VLJs; new flight
review guidance to provide instructors the tools needed to conduct a
customized flight review (which should supercede the 13-yearold AC
61-98A, Currency and Additional Qualification Requirements for
Certificated Pilots); web-based instructional resources covering
aeronautical decision making, controlled flight into terrain, weather,
and runway safety. These may be applied toward a new 'WINGS' option.
Standards for developing avionics training; integration of FITS into
the Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics; and FITS program information
focused toward FAA inspectors, designated examiners, and flight
instructors are also under development.
As the FITS program manager, I have
worked closely with the FITS Technical Team and industry partners. The
information regarding FITS has been reaching the industry. However,
there still seems to be some confusion over what FITS is and what FITS
First FITS is NOT a requirement. The
program works within the current regulatory framework leaving training
providers to decide if FITS is appropriate to their needs. The FAA's
overriding goal is to make FITS benefits driven. Those flying TAAs,
can look forward to better training through the availability of more
knowledgeable instructors. Pilots of traditional aircraft will also
realize a benefit resulting from training that more faithfully
replicates the way they fly.
FITS training can help keep insurance
costs at manageable levels. Traditionally, when new aircraft and/or
technologies enter the market, insurance companies have a difficult
time assessing potential risk, a major determinant in establishing
rates. Because GA lacks a regulatory requirement for structured
transition or system-specific training, insurance companies are often
forced to mandate certain conditions in order to write policies. This
usually translates into expensive, often burdensome, experience
(time-in-type) requirements. Also, because much of the training is not
well structured, the pilot receives minimal benefits from the
additional instruction. This is clearly a disservice to the
owners/operators of such aircraft/avionics systems and has the
undesired effect of discouraging pilots from investing in new
technologies. By offering a FITS alternative, pilots will receive the
training they need in less time, and with less expense. Insurance
companies, recognizing the benefits of such FITS training, will be in
a position to offer lower rates. This is because insurance companies
recognize and reward structured training that addresses the causal
factors associated with many GA accidents, regardless of the aircraft
FITS tenets and philosophies are NOT
new. What the FITS program does is take the best training information
from the safest operations and applies it to general aviation. Risk
management has been around for many years. Insurance carriers have
been assessing and managing risk for several hundred years to set
rates and to find ways to mitigate financial and other risks for their
policyholders. The airlines have also been using risk management for
Aeronautical decision-making (ADM)
goes hand-in-hand with risk management. Pilots must have the ability
to assess a situation and make sound decisions to lower the risk to an
We have all heard of CRM (Cockpit
Resource Management or Crew Resource Management). Air carriers are
required to teach CRM in their initial and recurrent training programs
(cockpit crew, cabin crew, and dispatchers). Single Pilot Resource
Management (SRM) brings these principles to the single-pilot GA
environment. Even in single-pilot operations, there are resources
available that must be managed. For example, a non-pilot can help scan
for traffic and arrange charts, Flight Watch can keep the pilot
updated on changing weather, Flight Following provides radar services,
and full use of the autopilot (if installed) may free the pilot to
perform other cockpit duties.
Situational awareness skills have also
been needed from almost the dawn of aviation. Whether you are VFR into
an uncontrolled airport or IFR en route flying through clouds,
situational awareness is a critical tool for safe operations. With
GPS, moving maps, data link weather, etc., situational awareness is
more intuitive, but with it comes possible problems. With all this
information prominently displayed, a pilot may become more comfortable
flying closer to hazardous weather or terrain without using the proper
situational awareness and risk management techniques.
The operators with the best safety
record have demonstrated that scenario-based training is an excellent
way to develop skills in risk management, ADM, SRM, and situational
awareness. Airlines have been doing scenario-based training for many
years. They call it Line-Oriented Flight Training (LOFT). LOFT
training in airlines has been going on since the 1970s. The military
calls it sortie training. Military pilots train for the job they do.
In the same way, a general aviation pilot should train for the
operation he or she conducts. If you fly for pleasure on the weekends,
such as taking your spouse and child to a nearby airport for lunch
(the $100+ hamburger flight), then the training you have always
received is probably the training you will need in the future.
However, if you are flying a new technology glass panel airplane (i.e.
Adam- 500, Cirrus SR-22, Eclipse 500, DA- 40, Lancair Columbia 400,
etc.) on long cross-country flights for personal or business
transportation, then your training should support that need. Fly the
way you're trained and train the way you fly.
FITS are intended to raise the level
of aviation safety by improving the quality of flight training. FITS
will make flying safer, less expensive, and provide more practical
training for the general aviation community through the development of
value-added programs and new instructional resources. Not only will
these systemic improvements reduce accidents, but they will also help
acclimate pilots to the rapid pace of technological advancement that
will surely be the norm in coming years.
For additional information on FITS
please visit the FITS web site at http://www.faa.gov/training_testing/training/fits/.
Thomas Glista is
an Aviation Safety Inspector in Flight Standards' General Aviation and
Commercial Division and leads the FITS program.