(August 2011) You don't have to look very long or very deeply into aviation’s troubles to see that there’s room for improvement pretty much across the board, from student retention to the cost of fuel, from primary flight training ineffectiveness to the accident rate. In fact, identifying the problems isn’t the hard part; figuring out what to do about them is.
Like the rest of us, Redbird Flight Simulations founder Jerry Gregoire wants to makes things better. Unlike nearly everyone, though, he has a plan, and the resources to do something about it. Gregoire’s unlikely resume includes stints at both PepsiCo and Dell, where he helped both companies’ bottom lines by finding ways to do business as it had never been done before.
The key to any such endeavor, Gregoire says, is data. Without it, how can we know what we know and what we just think we do?
Relying on the industry to come up with a new game plan, he says, is an unlikely scenario.
“Just look at how it is with FBOs,” Gregoire says. “They have a huge, well-documented problem with pilot retention, yet when you ask what they could do differently, the answer they give is ‘Nothing. We’re on top of things here.’ It’s an extraordinary response.”
As part of Redbird’s quest to change flight training, one innovative product has already emerged, King Schools’ Guided Interactive Flight Training (GIFT). GIFT is just what it sounds like, a self-guided flight training program that lets the student progress at his or her own pace, zooming through the easy parts and redoing the hard parts, if needed. The whole thing, of course, is done in a Redbird sim that has been set up to offer interactive onscreen instruction from John and Martha King. There’s no physical instructor present. Just as simulators have come to be replacements for actual airplanes in training for jet type ratings, self-guided training programs could someday replace actual dual instruction (or much of it) in primary instruction.
But Gregoire’s plans go far beyond GIFT, as revolutionary as it is.