Today’s Flight Plan
It’s our honor to welcome Rick Todd to the show. Rick is a member of the NAFI Board of Directors, a CFI, runs a flight school in Chicago, and so much more.
What makes Rick unique is that he uses simulators in his flight school quite a bit, more so than you see elsewhere. His students are working hard to become true to life pilots, but he encourages them to use simulators right there at the facility.
24/7/365 you can come into the school, use your RFID to get in, and then use the simulator. How useful would that be for your training?
Rick’s methods are proof that using a simulator has a tremendous impact on turning out quality students. He is at the forefront of what we will see in the future of aviation training, as the future is now. That is that simulators are an incredibly powerful tool for training pilots, in all stages of training.
Join Chris Palmer as he interviews Rick, diving more into these mentioned topics.
Huge thanks to Rick for joining us on the show. It was a great pleasure, and an intriguing conversation. Keep up the awesome work, Rick!
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Chucks off and start ‘em up. This is AviatorCast episode 39!
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators, you’ve landed at AviatorCast! My name is Chris Palmer. Dashing and stretching the sky so long, eyes gazing forward across the endless blanket of white wispy clouds, rushing by at over 200 knots, I’m at home. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this, the 39th episode of AviatorCast. It is my pleasure to have you here. We have a great interview lined up for you to listen to today. But first, we have a review that comes from Birdie. He gives us five stars. He says “A must for aviation and flight sim enthusiasts.” And here’s his review. “Entertaining, interesting and packed with useful info for anyone who is interested in aviation. If there is one phrase to sum up the show, I guess that’s it.” Short and sweet, thank you very much Birdie. You can also leave a review anywhere you’d like but iTunes is the primary place to leave a review. That’s where most people find out about the podcast and we’d love to hear from you there if you enjoy this show.
So we have a great interview lined up for you today. We have Rick Todd. Rick is from Chicago Premier Flight Training, but that’s not it. Rick is also very, very involved with using flight simulation as part of his training curriculum with his pilots. A very unique take on what simulation can do for flight training. And not just the loggable stuff but the stuff where you just go in in a simulator and you fly, fly, fly and really get used to it. He is a big passion believer that a simulator is a huge tool for a student pilot and you’ll hear that in our interview.
Rick is also on the Board of Directors for NAFI which is the National Association of Flight Instructors. This guy really knows what he is doing. He really has a great take on this mix between real aviation and flight simulation and how they help each other, and he’s just a top notch guy. So here we go, let’s get into Hangar Talk with Rick Todd.
Now, a special Hangar Talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, we are honored to have Rick Todd with us today. How are you Rick?
Rick: I’m doing great Chris. Thanks for having me.
Chris: Yeah, no problem. It’s a little bit early here. It’s I think 9 a.m. where you are, 6 a.m. where I am, so we are going to have an awesome show this morning. So tell me a little bit about, first of all, I ask this about everybody and that is how did you fall in love with aviation? Now we’re going to get into some pretty cool stuff on the simulation side, and we don’t always that conversation. We often have the conversation of flight training and things like that and don’t really get into simulation stuff, but you’re pretty passionate about taking simulation and making it useful for pilots. But first of all, before we get into any of that, how did you fall in love with aviation?
Rick: Yeah. It’s kind of a strange story. My grandmother actually took me out to a couple airfields when I was a kid and I really think that had an impact. You know, walking in the grass and seeing all the airplanes. It’s a memory that is still vivid to this day that I could go back to. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I really after college decided “You know, I really want to go on and try to learn to fly.” Cessna was doing their $50-Be-A-Pilot program at that point so I figured what better way to do it. It’s 50 bucks. We’ll go out to an airport, me and my brother-in-law did, and did a short little trip. It was only maybe 25 miles but I tell you right there, that was it, and I was done. I signed up that day and a year later, had my private pilot certificate and was just enjoying aviation.
Chris: And caught the bug like many of us.
Chris: So how did it progress from there?
Rick: From there, as everybody knows, the economy kind of took a little bit of a hit there, 2007-2008. My primary job is a manufacturer. I’m actually vice president of a manufacturing company. We were having a little bit of a trouble just like everybody else. I wanted a backup, not necessarily to go to the airlines but I figured “Well, I might as well, we’re a little slower, I’ll see where I could take these ratings. I have such a passion for aviation and we’ll kind of go from there.”
In 2007, I started out and went to ATP actually, got my instrument all the way though multiengine instruction, flight instructor instrument, advanced ground, instrument ground, and all the ratings there, and then kind of went in and started teaching in a couple local FBOs.
Chris: Great. That was kind of next question, is you have some options in front of you now that you have all these ratings and you chose to teach. Why do you think you kind of went the teaching route?
Rick: Teaching is just so rewarding. Number one, it gets you in front of people. I’ve met so many great people in aviation. My accountant now is, he was a pilot that I met. Other people like that. Everybody, you get people from all walks of life in aviation and just incredible people you meet, so that’s the one thing. The second thing is just the reward for teaching somebody. You’re giving the ability to take an aircraft and defy gravity and that is just so incredible, the feeling. I remember my first time. Every single person can go back to that first time they were in a light aircraft and remember that feeling. It’s the same thing going back to your solo. You remember that day, you remember the conditions. It’s just something that sticks in your mind. And giving people that opportunity is just incredible. They really have no idea what it’s going to be like until they’re actually there. You know, what I tell people, I warn them ahead of time. I say “You know what, aviation is the best drug you could ever be on.” It’s completely legal and you’ll be addicted for life. It really is.
Chris: Definitely. So now you are kind of doing a couple other big things that you and I have talked about a little bit behind the scenes here. So tell us a little bit about the flight school that you’re working with and also your involvement with NAFI and what NAFI is.
Rick: Sure, absolutely. Back in 2011… Actually, a boat rental and leasing company that I was dabbling around with and after I got some of my instructor ratings, I said “Well, let’s just change this to a flight school.” So I had a couple of friends that were instructors and we all got together and started Chicago Premier Flight Training just out of southwest suburbs of Chicago back in 2011. The main focus on our stuff is high quality instruction and a major emphasis on flight simulation which we’ll get to a little bit later in the podcast here.
Secondly, I was approached by one of my instructors who was, I’m a Board of Directors for NAFI which is the National Association of Flight Instructors. The organization is kind of like IEEE for instructors. National association, we have over 3,800 members and just the value in numbers. You meet a lot of good people just like you do in aviation, a lot of good instructors. We met Rich Graham, SR-71 instructor. I mean, he’s a member of NAFI. Just incredible people. That individual approached me to become a board member which I though was really neat, incredible opportunity to try to mold the future of the organization, future of flight instruction. So that was about two years ago now. We started out and we had a little bit of a struggle there with NAFI as an organization. We had a couple things we had to fix and I tell you, we got on the right foot and got an incredible board. We got some incredible programs coming out and it’s really focusing on making the instructor better.
We always talk about professionalism and instruction. What exactly does that mean? What exactly does it mean to be a professional? We don’t have variables to tell us what it is to be a professional. We’re actually working on developing a couple programs, one in particular that solely focuses on developing the instructor as a person, as a teacher, as a mentor, to try to really increase the quality of instruction. Because you know Chris just as well as I do, you’re an aviator, and it’s a known fact, 90% of the people that start training dropped out right after solo. It’s a fact of the matter. It’s something that we need to fix. Some of that is due to instruction.
One of NAFI’s goals is to try to increase that value of instruction and importance of quality instruction. It’s been a real pleasure serving in the board. I was recently elected on to our board for the NAFI education foundation. We got a really cool program we’re going to be starting hopefully the end of next year and I know this will take heart because we talked about this a little bit and that’s the mobile training facility. We actually have 12 flight training devices that’s going to tour the country, to high schools, aviation events, everything, bringing aviation to the people instead of just asking them to come out to the airport, try to get a little bit better turnover for getting people interested in aviation.
Chris: Great. That’s fantastic. So we’ve kind of gone through your background in the flying portion, mostly caught up to where you are today as far as the professional end of aviation, how did you get involved with simulation and why did that kind of grow up so naturally alongside your aviation stuff?
Rick: Yeah. Good question. Actually, when I started training, and this was back, I did simulation even before I started flight training actually. It goes back to flight simulator 98. I had my old joystick and stuff and do that, and then there was a combat simulator and that was cool, came out. You know just as well as I do, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Microsoft’s longest running program and just a lot of fun. It’s immersive. It got better throughout the years to the point where you can actually flick the switches and program your GPS into a flight plan and shoot approaches. It was one of the most immersive things that I could see, just a really, really good program.
Chris: Okay. So you kind of learned about how simulation was valuable. How did you bring that into your instructor space and start to use it?
Rick: Obviously, I supplemented my training with Microsoft Flight Simulator like I said. Back in, I think it was 2010, there was a book that came out, Microsoft Flight Simulator X for real world pilots. I said “Wow, this is a really cool book” because it had scenarios in there, it actually put you in a little bit better training environment instead of just going up and flying 737 or something. But it actually put that 172 in real life scenarios and gave you a reason, a mission to be on. And actually, Flight Simulator X and even Flight Simulator 2004 did that with the Kings, John and Martha King did a bunch of segments on Flight Simulator 2004, kind of starting that routine, and I think it worked very well for them. The importance though is just incredible.
Because of that one book, there has been multiple books that have come out now. Even Sporty’s Pilot Center has a supplement for their private pilot. And the funny thing is Chris, they don’t even market it very well. You actually have to dig through their site to find this thing. I’ve been pushing, obviously being in the board, we talked to Hal Shivers and one of the things I mentioned was this is so important for getting people’s hours down. And not just the hours down but the quality of the instruction. Most of my students now will actually fly the missions in a simulator before we go out and do them in a real airplane. And it’s not on an FAA-certified simulator. In fact, we have two simulators in my facility. One is a Redbird TD2 basic aviation training device, and the other one is one that we built up with Cytec products. There are multipanels, there are radios, and you know which one is the one that’s used the most, the one that caused like a quarter the amount of the Redbird and that’s the one with all the Cytec products.
Rick: But they’ll go and they’ll do the missions beforehand and man I tell you, I have one individual. He was on his fourth flight and I’m not even exaggerating, that man probably could have soloed. He was that comfortable and that on top of the airplane that just the ability, I’ve never seen it in the six years I’ve been instructing here, just having seen that kind of quality come out. And it’s really because of simulation, just the practice. We’ve said the old adage, practice makes perfect, right? Well, we say perfect practice makes permanent, and that’s really the key here. We’re perfecting that practice by doing it in a simulator beforehand.
And you know what, it’s cheap. You can’t compare that to burning avgas and everything else. That’s a thing that I really stress with people. Aviation is expensive enough. We all complain about it. It’s not going to get any better. Gas prices are probably just going to go up, so what do we do, we practice. Practice on a simulator. Make that lesson that you have in a real airplane as impactful as possible.
Chris: Great. So tell us about the accessibility of your simulators because that was something that was very attractive to me.
Rick: Yeah. Right, absolutely. Because of the emphasis that we put on simulators, a lot of flying clubs, you probably know this, you pay a monthly fee and you get a discount rate on their airplanes. And sometimes, other people will go out and do fly-outs, a breakfast club or something like that, but where is that money really going? That was one of the things when we started our program, was we want to make sure that our flying club funds stay within the club and provide the services for the people to really get the most amount of use out of the facility. So because of that, our club members actually have an RFID key tag and they can get into our office 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and use any of the simulators as well as our aviation library. And that was done to try to promote people to further educate themselves without any extra cost. It’s still surprising to me how many people don’t take up on that but the people that do are just thrilled about the program. They love it.
And you know, as an FBO owner, it doesn’t cause me anything extra. The simulators are all paid for. It’s creating better customer service, better pilots, so why not do it. And to my knowledge, in the Midwest, we’re the only ones that have a 24-hour access like that to our simulators. A lot of flights schools for some reason insist that an instructor be present when using the simulator. I’m not on that board. A lot of people are confident they can operate a computer without any issues. They’re not going to go and take a baseball bat to the simulator. I have never had any problems in the two years I’ve been doing this, just great response from a whole program.
Chris: Right. I don’t necessarily know how RFID works but I can imagine it tracks who’s logging in and so there’s accountability there. It’s not like there’s anonymity, you know.
Rick: Right, yeah. They do have to scan in and scan out, so that was one of the things. It was a little 400-dollar door lock that we put on and it keeps track of everything, so just a simple addition like that can go a long way.
Chris: Great. So tell us also, after all that and we’ll probably touch on some of that again. I’m just trying to get in kind of all the different things you’re working in here. Tell us also some of these programs you’re talking about with high school students. You’ve mentioned them to me before and you’ve mentioned one of them already and that is the mobile units.
Rick: Yeah. The NAFI Learn To Fly tour. Yeah. But one of the things that we talked about at NAFI, this was an idea just about 2-1/2 years ago when I was still a member, and the idea was supposed of how about we go out and bring a flight simulator to high schools? I said “Wow. That’s a great idea.” I would’ve loved to have a program like that in my high school. And in fact, some high schools even have aviation programs which I wasn’t even aware of. There’s a high school by our house in Rockford, Illinois and they actually have an aviation program that you can take which at the end of that program, they basically take the exam for the private pilot. What better idea?
So that’s one of those things we’re going to start out at locations like that but the problem that we came across was “Well, if we do this with one simulator, we have a class of 30 to 32 kids now. It’s going to take forever and a year to get people through that.” So we developed a concept called the mobile aviation training facility which is actually using a recycled cargo container, 53-foot cargo container. It will be completely self-sufficient. We have heating, air conditioning, power, everything on it. So we’ll be able to pull this up and we don’t have to do anything else with the high schools and quite literally just have the class come in and start training. It will be really, really good for the high schools.
The concept was like I said before, bringing aviation to the classroom. We have a lot of outreach programs out there right now in aviation. We have the Young Eagles program which is fantastic. AOPA started The Aviators Program and there are several other ones, smaller programs out there as well. But the problem with that is there’s no follow-up. The person for example in Young Eagles will go out, they’ll do a ride and there’s nothing really in place to make sure they go back out to the airport to do something. So what we’re doing with the training facility is number one, bringing aviation to them and number two, it’s actually going to be staffed by local FBO flight instructors. That way the relationship is there, the connection is there. So they can say “Wow, yeah, that’s really cool. I’m going to go and fly with Roger. Man, he was really, really great. Talk to me about all these aviation stuff. Yeah. I want to go and take a flight with him.” Because you are already having a relationship now with those people. It is kind of a strange environment, walking into an FBO at an airport. A lot of them aren’t really built for young adults or teenagers, it’s kind of intimidating. And this is kind of one of those comfort levels. If they have something that they can associate with when you’re going in there, they’re going to be so much more comfortable with it. And hopefully, obviously we don’t have any statistics to back this up, but hopefully the training experience will be a lot better and we’ll get that dropout rate down.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. You know, this is just kind of a small comparison and I can imagine that there are some sort of scientific data to back it up but I learned several years ago that the Olympic ski jumpers, I’m not sure the exact event name, but the event really go down a very large ramp and basically jump hundreds of yards. Those contestants or competitors, they actually start when they’re like five years old because it just like melds into their mind and they kind of get into the fear complex of it, so I can imagine that with teenagers as well, when they’re in those early stages of really kind of finding out what they want to do and before they really kind of get into a heavy job and they really kind of get into a heavy job and they’re kind of thinking just money track and getting a paycheck sort of thing, that actually having something before that time or in that time is very beneficial. For me, that was largely actually my experience because I had simulators all growing up.
And now I recognize that I never really thought of being a pilot until I was 16, 17 years old but I always had simulators. I had European Air War. I had Combat Flight Simulator. I had Microsoft Flight Simulator itself and although some of those are games, just flat out games and not necessarily a simulator, they helped me understand how things worked. You know, what happens when I kick the rudder a little bit so I can shoot down a Nazi airplane, just to get my gun to the right a little bit, just kick the rudder. Just little things like that and I think that really gets the students ahead of the game and just in my specific case and this isn’t boasting at all, but I just remember how complimentary my instructors were when I went through training about my footwork and also my hand-flying skills. Because I actually kind of knew already what the movements of the airplane just based on the practice that I had done and it really helped me along the way and I had fewer holdups.
And I think, something I’m gathering so far and I think we’re going to get into this more. Something I’m gathering so far from you is that there is great opportunity not only for teenagers but for all people who are learning to fly to kind of learn some of these things on a simulator and then when they get into the airplane, they already have that base set of knowledge and the training and the time spent in those expensive airplanes, that expensive time is spent very wisely and it’s spent well.
Rick: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that you were touching on that I think is really important and hopefully I have a demographic in this area but the importance, I shouldn’t say importance but getting your private pilot license when you’re in high school, we’ve talked to many, many universities and having that on your resume, that you are a private pilot, we talked to a lot of admissions counselors both for Embry Riddle and some of the other major universities even if you’re not going into aviation. That has a huge impact apparently on decision-making because it shows that you have good decision-making skills, basic mathematic skills, you know, all these things that we talked about in aviation. We’re emphasizing STEM training right, or what I like to do is STEAM training because I like the arts as well, but you got that Science, Technology, Mathematics. All of that stuff is so important in aviation. We use every aspect of it. It’s kind of funny because our nation is really emphasizing this STEM and STEAM type of education and we’ve been doing it for years. It’s all encompassing in aviation. We use all of that stuff.
Chris: That’s one thing I really like about aviation and especially for younger students, it’s a practical way to bring all of those different elements together. And I think that’s why it’s always remained very attractive to me because I am a focused person, I’m driven, but I also like to jump around and when it comes to aviation, I kind of get all of these different areas that I’m passionate about. It’s great. It’s just this meld of all the stuff that I really love, so pretty cool.
Rick: Yeah. It really is.
Chris: Alright, so let’s get into more of what you’re seeing with students that have actually gone through a lot of these simulation along with their private pilots. So maybe you have some particular examples in mind of people that have done a lot of these simulation stuff on the side and also having gone through their private pilot and kind of seeing what that means to their training, and maybe you even have an example that just went purely through a private pilot so you can kind of compare, but do you have any situations that just come to mind that you’ve seen this sort of thing happening and what that meant for the student and what that meant for their pocketbook and time and all sorts of things.
Rick: Oh yeah, it’s an incredible difference. Right now, and I believe, don’t quote me exactly in the statistics but AOPA came out again and average time for private pilot is somewhere around 60 hours, 60 to 65 I believe. Some marks have been up to like 70 hours. Now you know just as well as I do when you walk in to FBO, the FBO guys come and says “Oh yeah, you could get your private pilot only 40 hours, that’s all it takes.” I can count on one hand the number of people that got it within 40 to 45 hours. However, we did have a student, actually just recently get his private pilot license and he was at 44-1/2 hours. He was in the simulator at least twice to three times a week and we only went up and flew once a week. And that’s just incredible because usually the recency and stuff, you want to go up in an airplane if you don’t want to hit those low hours at least two to three times a week.
If you’re replacing that though with the simulator, you still have that recency, it’s just you don’t have the physical G-forces and feelings with the gravity and everything that you do in a real aircraft. You’re never going to be able to recreate that. Even in a level D simulator, the ones that are millions of dollars that the airline pilots train on, they’ll even tell you the same thing. This thing doesn’t fly like the real airplane. It’s almost impossible to recreate that. But it’s the process. It’s the process that we’re trying to reinforce the use of checklist. Even in the simulator, I have them use our full checklist. So they actually go from the apron area, they do a startup. They do taxi. They go to the end of the runway, they do the run-up, just like you would in the real airplane. Is it a little bit of a pain to do that in a simulator? Sure, but you know what? It’s consistent. So it’s consistent training from the computer to the actual aircraft. And I think that’s one thing that really helps with keeping the hours low and the cost low.
But I mean now this gentleman and actually he was in a club airplane. He was paying I think 80 dollars an hour a wet for a Piper Warrior, my instructor fee, and he was using a simulator, and I don’t know the exact numbers but I think it was only around 5000 dollars is what it cost him. It’s not unusual these days to hear people paying up in the 10,000-dollar range, but again that’s because people have not used simulation in the way that it really should be used. And I think that part of it is the FAA. The FAA kind of looks down on it actually as far as private pilots. It doesn’t really offer up very good acknowledgement that using a PC training device helps in proficiency and things like that because it’s not certified by them. We get into the certification thing that we’ve talked about. And the thing is, yeah, it’s nice to fly certified simulators but it’s not a requirement. Really, what we’re trying to do is proficiency, not the requirements of currency. There’s a difference between currency and a difference between proficiency. And right now, I focus on proficiency. In a basic aviation training device, you can do 10 hours towards the instrument rating, you can do 2-1/2 towards the instrument portion of the private pilot that would count towards a rating.
However, in a private pilot, first of all, I would never sign anybody off with just a half-hour of actual airtime under the hood in an airplane, that’s not going to happen, so it’s kind of a weird loophole way the FAA has done that but like I said, it really does not tell pilots or tell student pilots that “Hey, this is really important that you practice this stuff.” And we talked about, I don’t know if you did this, but when I was learning to fly, the instructor said “Hey, you should go and cheer fly.” Right? You sit in the airplane, you play with the gauges and stuff and you kind of make airplane sounds and pretend like you’re flying. So what is it? It’s simulation. It’s doing the exact same thing that we do in a simulator except the simulator is a lot better at it than our imagination. Now I’m not discounting that because it’s still important to sit in your airplane, know where all the dials and knobs and switches are because that does vary from aircraft to aircraft and it might be a little bit different from the simulator model that you have but it is essentially doing the exact same thing. We’ve been doing it for years and the FAA has been kind of promoting it because they talked about cheer flying in the airplane flying handbook and things like that but just a little bit different angle.
Like I said, it speaks for itself. The practice speaks for itself. We’ve proven it. It’s a proven concept. People can genuinely reduce the cost of training by using simulators. And that doesn’t necessarily mean reducing the time and I think this is one of the things that we need to get over as a training community and even as a community of students or people learning to fly, is this proficiency versus I guess, what would be the word for that…
Rick: The requirement.
Chris: Yeah. He requirement and the money involved and all of that. We’re pigeonholed in this idea right now that we’ve got to get X amount of hours and we’ve got to get our license as soon as possible because that’s what everyone wants to do. I understand. I get it. I understand that you want to go up and you want to be able to take up your mom and dad or your wife and kids as soon as possible legally in an airplane and you can’t do that until you actually have your private pilot license. But what a lot of people are missing is that this industry and being an aviator is not about just the ticket you get. It’s about how safe you are from day to day. It’s about how great of an aviator you actually are. There are plenty of pilots out there, you know? Maybe we should start calling it the Private Aviator License instead of the Private Pilot License.
And aviator takes us a lot more recently. They really take it by the reins and they dive in and they put the time in that they need to put in. I actually had a podcast about this, just kind of my own particular story a long time ago, we’re on episode 39 now, but this is a long time ago, probably around episode 20 but I kind of reflected back on getting my private pilot and going and doing my first solo crosscountry or the first crosscountry that I did as a private pilot. I took my brother and went, kind of weaved through some mountains and went up to this lake and anyway, we landed at this airport there, and reflecting back on that, I realized, I actually didn’t have the experience I needed to do a complex flight like that at least safely. To a certain extent, you’ve got to be cut loose at some time but that doesn’t mean that you can’t work things in your favor and get ahead of the game and I think one of the absolute cheapest ways to get ahead of the game and I say cheap because the vast majority of us have money concerns in our lives.
Rick: Sure. It’s a limited budget. Yup.
Chris: Yup. So one of the best things you can do is use a simulator and a simulator, especially if you have one at home is an infinite amount of hours and an infinite amount of things that you can do in the simulator. One of the great things a simulator does is scenario-based training. So thing that you wouldn’t be doing in the real world, you could do in a simulator and I emphasize that because obviously in a simulator, there aren’t any consequences, in the real world there are. You don’t want to get the two mixed together. You could take off in a thunderstorm for example in a simulator, you’d never want to do that in the real world, so you have to be careful there.
There’s just so much opportunity to do a lot of work in a simulator and it does absolutely carry over. Again it’s not certified but that doesn’t matter because the goal is to be a safer aviator to carry your passengers around, be more proficient as a pilot, more accurate in your control inputs and your holding of altitude and all that stuff. You can get so many of those skills from a simulator, it’s absolutely unnecessary to get it in an airplane. Obviously, you want to verify it in an airplane but you don’t have to do that.
Rick: Right, right. And you know, one of the things too that I wanted to mention, not to plug your own stuff, but the Aviator90 program that you guys developed and came up with really does that. By the end of that program, you are getting in the scenarios and decision-making and things like that, and then your professional pilot program. I believe that’s what it’s called, the instrument…
Chris: Yeah. AviatorPro, yeah.
Rick: AviatorPro, yeah. I mean, just a really great resource for existing pilots even to brush up on the skills and really work on that stuff. I’m a visual learner so I love the video. The audio and video content just works for me. And I found a lot of students like that as well. Really great product. We appreciate it. That’s obviously how we met, with started using the Aviator90 program and just really great. On top of that, there are and you mentioned scenario-based training. There is actually a fantastic book that came out, it’s by Bruce Williams. And I don’t get any money for plugging this but…
Chris: We’ve actually had him on the show.
Rick: Yeah, you’ve had Bruce on the show so I’m sure you’ve talked about the scenario-based training book that he has using the FAA industry training standards.
Chris: Yeah, the FITS.
Rick: Just fantastic. There’s a reason why the FAA said “Hey, here’s the standards that we should be training on. We should be using scenario-based training. It’s really funny because a lot of instructors don’t use scenario-based training and it’s a shame. Before every flight, I always talked to my students and say “Hey, where are going? What are we going to do? We’re going to go to your grandma’s house or something up in Wisconsin.” And then halfway through the flight “Oh jeez, this cloud deck is really coming down” and really forcing them to think outside and say “Okay, well, what do I do? I got to figure out something. I have to make a good decision. So okay, what do I drop down? Do I turn back?” and just see what their reactions are. So we do do that or we’re supposed to do that. And using Bruce’s stuff, and his book is just the tip of the iceberg. If you go to the Bruce Williams website, my gosh, just fantastic content on there.
Chris: Yeah, he does a great job.
Rick: He gets it, the simulator, and like you mentioned, you can put yourself on those scenarios. You want to try to shoot a 30-knot crosswind or something on landing, you go right ahead. Give it a shot in the simulator. It’s just one of those things where you can always hit pause and kind of regroup and figure out what’s going on. There’s no pause button in the real airplane.
Chris: Definitely. There is kind of this enlightenment right now and this isn’t necessarily a simulation conversation or a topic, but there’s this enlightenment right now that I really like to see take hold even more and that is the use of scenario-based training. And obviously, Bruce Williams has done that with his scenario-based training books that kind of are geared towards simulation and those were really great but just speaking to scenario-based training specifically, one of the most enlightening episodes I’ve had so far on AviatorCast was with the author of The Killing Zone, Dr. Paul Craig.
Rick: Yeah, sure.
Chris: And he talked about, and actually they have all the data to back it up. They actually took one body of students versus another body of students and put them through a scenario-based training curriculum versus the same old maneuvers-based curriculum. And what they found is that the students had fewer setbacks. They finished their private pilot sooner and they were making better decisions along the way, and they went even further with that and created an FAA-certified private pilot instrument combined that they could basically take their checkride at the same time for both of those licenses and get them at the same time, and that’s more kind of a safety thing because he really believes and has shown with data that pilots are safer having had an instrument rating.
But this scenario-based idea of training as if it is going to be real world is really compelling because at the end of the day, that’s what it is. Early on as a pilot I said “Why do hours matter? Why is the FAA requiring me to get 200 hours or whatever it is for whatever license. I have more than that.” But what I’m realizing now is there’s actually wisdom in that because when you go through your experience as a pilot flying from day to day, you face different situations and different scenarios that you have to get through and that you have to problem-solve, and everytime you do something different, you add that to your book. Everytime you read up on an accident report and it’s pretty detailed and they understand kind of what the chain of events were and you choose yourself to learn from that experience and commit to yourself that you’re not going to do that sort of thing, you build up that experience.
So there’s definitely wisdom in the hours component of it but man, why not get some of this in a simulator where there aren’t a lot of consequences especially early on when you can just fly and fly and fly on a simulator and don’t really have to worry about running a 30,000-dollar bill on your private pilot. Why not just do it on a simulator?
Rick: Right. And especially with the integrations we have now with all the different softwares. You got even people talking about using the Oculus, I don’t if you saw that at Airventure.
Chris: I didn’t see it there but I know what it is.
Rick: Yeah, the Oculus Rift. They were trying to program and I had the privilege of flying the demo. It was very interesting. Very virtual and it really put you inside the cockpit. So I think, in future, we’re going to see thing like that come out that’s a much lower price point to make things more realistic. We’ve seen it already with the graphic processors that have come out, things like that. We have things like LiveATC that we can listen to, as well as the air traffic control clubs and integrations you can use.
Chris: Yeah, PilotEdge, stuff like that.
Rick: PilotEdge, absolutely. It’s getting more real life which only is going to help the usefulness of simulation.
Chris: At the end of the day, what I say is that when you’re in a simulator, you want to momentarily forget that you are in a simulation and that is what a good simulator does. That’s why the FAA or rather the airlines have FAA-certified full motion simulators so that the pilots for several moments or even for moments forget that they’re in a simulated airplane because it becomes more real to them and becomes just this environment that they’re completely immersed in. And although full motion isn’t completely accessible yet, it’s getting more accessible with the Redbirds of the world, but even though it’s not completely accessible yet, we still have these different components. You talked about the Oculus Rift. There has been the air traffic control thing for a long time. Recently, I’ve been using an app that connects to ForeFlight on my iPad. I’m going to use an iPad to fly. Lots of different things going on.
Rick: Yeah. Actually, it’s a great point Chris and I totally forgot about it but that’s one of the things we actually do. A lot of pilots are using EFBs. Whether it be a ForeFlight on an iPad or Android, but the problem with that is just like learning to fly, learning to use these apps in the actual airplanes is the absolute worst classroom in the world. So by going to a school like mine that has the ability for pilots to bring their iPads or Androids in and connect to the simulator, they are able to practice that software as well which only makes for a much more proficient pilot up in the air, so I’m glad you brought that up.
Chris: And like you said, it’s not something you want to learn in the flight deck because those devices become part of your workflow and if they don’t become part of your workflow, then they just become a distraction, just kind of like how they usually are when you’re in church and you want to look at a football score, at least that’s what happens to me. But in an airplane, they shouldn’t be a distraction. They should be there as an informational tool and the kinds of information that are being pumped in to it is absolutely amazing and we have that in our fingertips but it’s got to be in its place and it’s got to remain as an informational tool and not a distraction. So very powerful but like you said, should be learned outside the cockpit and not inside the cockpit and really honestly, that’s exactly the process I’m kind of in right now because those apps are very powerful. They have a lot going on and in my conversations with people using those, even the lead designer of ForeFlight was on the show and while we were on the show, he was telling me all these little things I could do, his favorite features of little things I could do that were just absolutely amazing. If I was in the actual airplane trying to learn that stuff, I would be so distracted and I would be going left and right and it just wouldn’t be a good situation.
Rick: Yeah. Absolutely. So yeah, it is good. Garmin actually had the thing for their 430s and 530s. I don’t know if you remember that. There was an application you could download off their website that was a simulator so you could learn the Garmin 430 and 530 off the airplane. It’s really difficult to do that with ForeFlight as far as the inflight features. So it is great that we have this integration now. The Cygnus with Redbird, Redbird Cygnus. Any flight school that has a Cygnus system, you guys will be able to, out there in the internet world, be able to bring your iPads in there with Fore Flight and connect up to it and see really how it works.
Chris: And there’s even a little program you can get just at home, for your own home simulator, called FSX Flight or something like that, and I think that X-Plane hooks up natively to the app somehow over the year. But you know, all these different things we’re talking about, I think the major point here throughout this entire conversation is it there is so much you can do in a simulator that you don’t have to learn in a real airplane, that you can save money there. I’m not going to really say save time because what we’re talking about here…
Rick: It’s going to take more time.
Chris: Yeah, it’s going to take more time. We’re talking about proficiency and proficiency happens, it takes a longer time. That’s just the fact of the matter. Honestly, if it’s up to me, I’m actually at the camp and I know it’s probably a little different for you because you run a business, but in a perfect world, if we didn’t have to worry about money or time or anything or some of these requirement constraints, in a perfect world, it’d be great if every private pilot was required to get an instrument and get a little more crosscountry time in some of that real world experience. But that’s not super realistic so we have to find these other ways to make sure that we are safe and that we have somebody of experience in our corner especially when it comes to private pilot. You know, that brings me to kind of a question. Are you seeing a lot of people using the simulator after they’re getting their private pilot? How are people integrating this in their instrument training because simulators are great for instrument training.
Rick: That’s actually funny you mentioned it. We’ve seen a significant drop-off of people after they’ve gotten their private pilot ratings not go on and do the instrument exercises which I think is kind of bad because we have the abilities. We have Bruce Williams’ book. The second half of that book is all on instrument training. So it’s not that, I think they’re just so excited that they got their license that they don’t go out and actively pursue the next step even if it isn’t with a natural instructor but even just trying to, like you’re saying, pilots putting themselves in those situations to try to practice that, so god forbid they actually get into that situation. They’re going to be a lot more able to handle the situation than somebody that hasn’t had any simulator training at all in instrument environment.
Chris: Right. And it’s not that we’re talking about simulating every single thing you’re going to go through. We’re talking about that building of decision-making and making wise decisions in the airplane so you can analyze things and choose a correct course, choose a safe course and live to fly another day. Because at the end of the day, flying as a private pilot non-instrument rated is actually very dangerous, and this is something I learned from Dr. Paul Craig. It’s actually more dangerous than driving. And we all say that it’s safer or whatever but in that particular case, if you’re just a private pilot, no instrument training, it’s actually more dangerous.
Rick: Yeah. We always recommend people at least get five hours of instrument training beyond and if fact, I’m with the school. I actually take my private pilot students up in the actual conditions, every single one of them because I want them to know what it’s like so they don’t do it.
Rick: Because you can’t simulate that. There’s no way you can simulate that. Fortunately in Chicago area, we have cloudy conditions fairly often. You probably, you got the same thing. Unfortunately, people down on Phoenix, they don’t have that ability. It is very important I think and it’s one of the things we do make sure everybody goes up in the actual conditions to really make sure that they don’t do that because it’s just not a good idea.
Chris: Absolutely. So what’s next for you guys? What are you kind of looking at in the near future here and we’ll wrap up the show this way.
Rick: Sure. In the near future, we got a number of different programs as far as NAFI goes. You can see us at Sun and Fun. We have our professional development program that we’re putting on in January. It’s actually going to be in association with the, we have Illinois Aviation Expo put on by the state here, so it’s going to be an association with that. You see many more programs coming out. We have actually a mentoring program which was put on by one of our directors. He’s a 747 check airman for United so he knows a thing or two about professionalism, being in a position like that and he’s kind of heading up our instructor mentoring program, so not pilot mentoring but specifically for those instructors that want to get a little bit more information on being a better instructor, being a better professional and how to get to get to those very good paying positions. I mean, they’re not as good as they used to be but hey, you know what, that’s still the top of the top as far as aviation goes.
And then final program we actually have that we’re rolling out is, we’ll kind of wrap up nicely here. It’s called our NAFI FTO directory and you can go to comeflywithus.net or .com, I’m not sure which one it is. But what that’s doing is we’re going through every single FBO in the country, making phone calls, making sure there actually an FBO place where you can go to flight train, because there are so many directories out there that have cargo companies and things like that on there but they just want web presence. So this is actually going to be a monitored web directory specifically for flight schools and flight training organizations. So you’re going to see a lot of that.
Finally, last but not least, we’re going to be unveiling our student membership for NAFI which is specifically for people that are in degree-earning programs. Embry Riddle, UND Aerospace, programs like that, to try to mold those instructors to be the best they can at that point. So we’re trying to hit it right where they’re starting to get that instructor rating and point them in a right direction. You can see we have a lot of stuff going on in industry and really want to try to help increase the instructor community as far as proficiency and just general customer service.
Chris: Great. We’ve talked a lot about actual students and simulation and things but instructors should absolutely look into what you do and look into some of these programs because a lot of them are kind of out there on their own, kind of flying solo if you will, and they don’t get a lot of the support so it’s really important for instructors especially when they kind of have, a lot of times, their own business and that’s something that they want to start up. It’s really important to drill down to the sum of the stuff and kind of get a team into their corner if you will.
Rick: Yeah, absolutely. You’re talking about supporting the programs. I forgot the mention. If anybody out there in internet world wants to find out more about the learn to fly program or how they can be involved in it both as far as monetary and as far as curriculum development, you could go to NAFIfoundation.org to find out more about the NAFI Learn To Fly Tour.
Chris: And we’ll put links to all of your stuff or your flight school for this comeflywithus.net, and for NAFI, we’ll put all that in the show notes on AviatorCast.com so people can get all of it there too, just make it easy on you guys.
Chris: Rick, I really appreciate you coming on the show. You’re doing some very exciting work and work that I actually don’t see too often so I really appreciate all the hard work you’re putting and I’m really looking forward to the next couple years to see how these all kind of come together.
Rick: Thank you very much Chris, we really appreciate it, and all the work that Angle of Attack media has done has just been tremendous, bringing a lot of simulator stuff to life and we look forward to what you guys come up with next as well.
Chris: Great. Appreciate it Rick. Take care.
Rick: Thank you.
Chris: Yeah, bye.
Alright, a huge shoutout goes out to Rick for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. It’s really interesting to get a take from an instructor and a guy in charge on a flight school that really understands just how powerful simulation can be. And again, we’re not talking about the type of simulation that is just loggable or what the FAA says that you can log, but using a simulator as a tool to get very familiar with your aircraft with the procedures and using it beyond the scope of what is typical of a flight school. You know, taking all the time you need to really get used to those procedures, really get used to the checklist, really get used to the instrument flying. There are so many different things that a simulator does a great job with that it looks like Rick’s students are using and it’s paying off really well and that’s definitely something that I too have seen in the flight simulation community and the aviation community as people use their simulators to their advantage.
This is one of those tools that you can have as a pilot that really brings the power to you. It helps you have an infinite amount of time to practice those procedures you need, to really get great at it and then go in a real airplane and essentially verify. Now, if I’m being completely honest, a simulator is actually much more difficult to fly than a real airplane and the reason being is that in a real airplane, you have a lot of visual and kinetic cues and a lot more sense than you do in an actual simulator so therefore, your body kind of gets in to flying a real airplane more than it does a simulator. So when you take those skills that you’ve learned say just as an instrument pilot and bring those over into an actual cockpit, so what I mean is those skills learned in a simulator, bring those over to an actual cockpit, you’ll find that you’re catching on a lot faster in the real airplane. You’re not behind the airplane the entire time.
As a VFR pilot, you go out there, you can fly and you enjoy the scenery and you go from point A to point B and everything is kind of carefree, maybe not completely carefree but then as an instrument pilot, it is by the book, procedure after procedure, checklist after checklist, and then slowing things down for yourself and your own mind to where you really understand what’s going on. A simulator is tremendous for that type of thing and it’s one of those things where you can gain a lot of experience with these things without actually having go into a very expensive airplane. This is one thing Rick really, really understands and heck, I wish I was in Chicago to take some training from these guys. They sound absolutely fantastic. So thank you Rick again. Much, much appreciate for your time that you spent with us today. And you guys can go and check him out. They are at Chicago Premier Flight Training, that is CPFlightTraining.com, and you can also learn more about the work that Rick does with NAFI and you can find them at NAFInet.org. Great organization there. Really trying to make quality instructors out there which I am huge on.
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Until next time, throttle on!