How flight training solutions could alleviate the pilot shortage

Business aviation, like many other sectors, continued to face increasingly complex market conditions in 2023, writes Christian Theuermann, director of the executive board at AXIS Flight Simulation.

While Covid-19…


Business aviation, like many other sectors, continued to face increasingly complex market conditions in 2023, writes Christian Theuermann, director of the executive board at AXIS Flight Simulation.

While Covid-19 increased demand for charter travel, thanks to the flexibility and safety of private flying, it was also quick to expose the declining number of available pilots.

Staff shortages have sought headlines since the pandemic’s outbreak, caused by salary cuts and an aging workforce which led to the early retirement of hundreds of pilots. Coupled with the rising cost of obtaining certification, operators across the globe are still experiencing the impact of these shortages, which have been intensified by competitive salary incentives at airlines.

To ensure operators can match new demand and avoid last minute scheduling changes in 2024, new growth strategies must focus on minimising current labour drawbacks. Despite new incentives aimed at encouraging young people to join the industry, effective training solutions can be considered key to mitigating the effect of staff limitations.

Flight simulators that utilise advanced technology to replicate the functions of real-life jets can not only train pilots faster, but further eliminate the need for costly, inconvenient flight hours.

Gaining a pilot’s licence: what are the requirements?

For those wishing to pursue a career in private flying, trainees must be granted a Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) from approved training organisations. For example, most flight training centres in the UK and Europe will teach a syllabus in line with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The number of inflight hours required to gain a licence can vary depending on the size of the aircraft. But typically, trainees must complete at least 45 hours of flight time to qualify for formal examination. Compared to the 200 hours required to obtain a Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL), private aviation can be an attractive option for aspiring pilots hoping to quickly take to the skies.

That said, the cost of training remains high and with tightened capacity, the number of available jets has reduced. Not only do flight simulators replicate the appearance of original instruments, their durability and availability also makes them a cost-effective solution for flight training centres looking to serve a higher number of students.

The benefits of flight simulation

One of the main benefits of simulator training is that trainees can use devices at any time of day, recreating flight scenarios such as take-off and landing, jet orientation, wind shear and Upset Recovery and Prevention Training (UPRT). In some instances, utilising simulator technology will mean that trainees have a broader understanding of challenging situations that aren’t always guaranteed while training inflight.

Advancing Instructor Operating Station’s (IOS) minimizes trainer workload and can support with teaching a higher volume of students. In some instances, only one instructor is required to control multiple training sessions and systems, which includes motion, visual, oxygen, audio and air conditioning. With only one pilot able to train in a single aircraft at one time, flight simulation can allow several pilots to train together and ensure they receive fundamental training before entering the aircraft.

The future of flight simulation

There are currently some exciting technical advancements taking place which could further enhance the flight training experience.

The introduction of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) means that training can be carried out remotely, reducing the need to travel to a specialist. As operators globally seek out ways to train a higher volume of pilots and reduce expenditure, utilising the power of AR and VR can allow users to become more familiar with the cockpit layout and procedures before beginning FFS training. Ultimately, these training enhancement tools have potential to offer a greater degree of accessibility and flexibility.

Additionally, hardware improvements are contributing to greater realism. Some developments include more sophisticated headset technology which offers a higher resolution, lower weight and wider field of view to provide more immersive simulator experiences.

Are flight training requirements evolving?

While simulator training does not discount from the flight hours required in obtaining a PPL, they can support trainees to navigate an aircraft before going onboard. Familiarising themselves with cockpit functions not only increases the efficiency of practical flight hours and can empower trainee pilots, but further introduces cost saving benefits for training providers.

There’s no doubt that the industry needs to invest more to encourage young people to join the industry and mitigate the current pilot shortage. That said, as technology continues to mature, flight simulation can train pilots faster, with the potential to evolve current training requirements in years to come. Short-term, it’s crucial that operators work closely with training providers to qualify more pilots and match the growing demand for business jet travel.
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