Aviation training and “old fartism”

As we noted last week (Are there limits to simulator training?), Paul Bertorelli had written an interesting post about the limits of simulator training and in a follow-up post, he noted that he had since received a trickle of (interesting) email about his original post. He noted that one email was from:

….a long-time contributor railing about the inadequacies of modern training and, especially the alarming attitude of some pilots who rely entirely on cutting-edge systems, never giving a second thought to the underlying skills required to survive if those systems fail. He was talking about over reliance on glass and GPS, but it could be any cutting-edge system in the modern airplane

Paul then wrote that we have been having such conversations or debates for about 200 years now. In other words, the debate over simulator training and its limits is just another chapter in the classic confrontation between the traditionalists and the modernists.

However, Paul then asked how you can tell if:

…your insistence that the old way of doing things is a vital primary skill or if you’re just clinging to some ancient procedure in defiance of progress that has rendered it obsolete. In other words, you’ve crossed the line into old fartism.

He then gave two examples of what he viewed as “old fartism” in aviation. First, he noted that not too long after GPS approaches became common, he stopped bothering with NBD approaches on instrument proficiency checks. The reason? GPS approaches are much more accurate and safer plus it required more time to teach. Hence, he dropped NDB approaches – unless a pilot insisted on learning them and had the time.

Paul also added:

Then there’s the dead reckoning fantasy. We still spend time teaching primary students to plot a course and build a nav log, something that few will ever use. Maybe none will ever use. It’s a warm and familiar process that we imagine to be a fundamental airman skill — but we don’t use it, so why teach it?

At the end of his post, Paul pointed out that an astonishing 58% Skylane accidents relate to runway loss of control – mainly on landings. His point? Learning “silly stuff” like dead reckoning does build some aviation skills, but it gets in the way of spending time on learning the stuff that really matters – like basic aircraft control, basic instrument work and of course landings. Important points worth thinking about.


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