Principal Air - Flight Training / Charter in Canada

Principal Air - Flight Training / Charter in Canada, Learn to Fly


Unit D 30460 Liberator Ave. (Just past the Main Terminal)
Abbotsford International Airport
V2T 6H5
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Flight Training Program

“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.”

--Winston Churchill--

When I was in university, an older acquaintance of mine, then serving as an infantry officer in the US Army, was promoted and sent to advanced officer training prior to being deployed to Vietnam for his second tour. Being a curious type, I asked him what exactly they taught him during his training. His reply: Korea.

It seems we humans all share the fixation of applying previous experience to new situations until long after that is proven inadequate. As Marshall McLuhan wrote, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

I’m sure we can all think of specific examples. To our credit, our current flight training program is excellent and is the product of years and years of close study and reflection. It is grounded on a sound and well studied body of experience and has served us well. Projecting it into the future, however, may be something we will have to examine carefully. As a friend of mine said to me the other day, “We have an excellent program for training bush pilots”

The training model we have inherited and have been using successfully for years is based on a linear developmental model: we start at Alpha and work steadily and sequentially toward Zulu: PPL, CPL, Multi, IFR. First, we train pilots to fly light, single engine aircraft in VFR conditions. Then, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, we come to a fork in the road and take it. We train budding pilots to fly aircraft with more than one engine or one on floats. Following close behind, we train them to fly aircraft with reference to instruments in preparation for flight in IMC, perhaps as a second pilot. During their apprentice period flying as second pilot, they will have an opportunity to receive further training and experience to qualify them to sit in the left seat of complex, modern aircraft.

We expect and anticipate a new pilot to follow some variation on the traditional career path: either instructor or bush pilot, charter pilot, regional or small carrier pilot and then, at long last, airline pilot. A linear progression through the ranks of aviation. Of course, many if not most pilots will drop out along the way for the variety of reasons we all know: money, time, boredom, lack of commitment, fear, failure to develop the required skills. It is a linear, sequential, analog model that has worked and made sense to us for several generations.

Sadly or fortunately—an assessment dependant on our age and temperament—our world has moved decidedly from a linear, sequential, analog reality to a non-linear, nonsequential digital reality. What comes next no longer necessarily connects with what came before.

Our world of aviation, too, is experiencing an accelerating rate of change. The technology of flight has advanced in an exponential curve rather than a linear manner and, if we are not to find ourselves far, far behind the curve, some investigation and consideration of what exactly we are training people for and what that training should encompass will have to be undertaken. It is now possible to fly a large aircraft from Vancouver to Singapore while sipping coffee sitting in your office in Toronto or Winnipeg, or Regina or; heaven forbid, Topeka, Kansas. Most air travelers are probably not quite ready for the “pilot-less” aircraft, but that is a psychological and social barrier not a technological one. The technology is there and being used; the most significant performance barriers in military fighter aircraft are the limitations imposed by the physiology of pilots.

The actual “job” of modern airline pilots is moving rapidly toward being present to monitor the complex, computer systems that actually control the big machine. Even smaller, GA aircraft are moving in the same direction. I had an opportunity to fly with a friend in his new Columbia the other day and it reminded me more of a TV studio than what I am used to as an aircraft. There were flashing screens, virtual dials and a soft, female voice reporting traffic and proximity alerts all during the flight. Once the machine is airborne, as long as you’ve told it where to go, it will simply take you there by the route you have pre-selected. If we’d had the nerves to do it, I’m sure we could have set an alarm to wake us up just prior to touch down, necessary only because the machine was not equipped with auto-land.

For good reasons, aviation is a very conservative endeavour. Very few people are willing to fly the “A” model of anything or change a routine, procedure or pattern that has proven itself successful and our system of training pilots follows that same, conservative pattern.

It may be, however, that that pattern will no longer serve us well into the future. When I was in high school, we spent hours learning how to use a slide rule or log tables to calculate problems in chemistry and physics. Students can now solve much more complex problems in a small fraction of the time with the use of software and computers and never actually have to understand the underlying process involved. They plug the right inputs into the right machine in the approved manner and arrive at the correct solution. In university I was taught to use a ruling pen, a 15th century graphic tool that would have been a familiar piece of equipment to Christopher Columbus, to make maps.

Contemporary cartographers use satellite and aerial imaging and computers to create maps accurate to within millimetres. We older folk can put all the moral spin we choose to this change; yet, there it is. And it appears to be working with great success. It may well be time to begin phasing out the program of the past, at least for advanced piloting programs, and begin substituting in the real skills that are involved in conducting the process of flight in modern machines, at least for those destined or selected to conduct such machines.

It may be that the interim period, the next decade or so, will have to face the reality of a two-tiered flight training system: one for those who will continue to fly the out-dated, toy flying machines we have inherited from the past and one for those who will enter the world of aviation in the future. I will leave the details to those who will move into that future, but I can certainly see it on the near horizon.

For today, however, as I write this the sun in shining and my little Citabria waits.