Redbird Flight Joins the Air Force

The company also announces a proof of concept mixed-reality device, and additions to its Redbird Pro app.

Redbird launched the Pro app in February to help pilots stick to a proficiency plan.

Redbird Flight Simulations was founded on the premise that flight training—whether for initial pilot certification, recurrent training, or proficiency practice—could be accomplished in a safer, more consistent way using flight simulation, among other technologies.

Over the past 16 years, Redbird has delivered on that overarching concept with increasingly sophisticated advanced aviation training devices (AATDs), including its latest versions, the FMX series

The U.S. military has long found value in flight simulation in both screening and the initial training of its applicants, including a test program developed by the U.S. Navy in 2000. At EAA AirVenture 2022, Redbird has announced that the U.S. Air Force is the latest service branch to utilize civilian flight simulation products to train its budding pilots.

Redbird AATDs to Replace T-1As

The Air Force took delivery of its first Redbird prototype in March, and it plans to adopt the AATDs as a core part of its initial training plan. In fact, over the next 16 months, the service will replace its T-1A Jayhawks (based on the Cessna 172) with the AATDs for jet transition training.

It’s a bold move, but it makes sense, according to Redbird’s CEO Todd Willinger. “When we founded Redbird in 2006, we saw an opportunity to create and promote a training device that would offer a superior learning environment to that of an airplane,” said Willinger. “The Air Force’s recognition, adoption, and advancement of that vision speak to the immense technological innovation in our industry and the capability of flight simulation to provide an effective means to train some of the top pilots in the world.”

While the AATDs run on Redbird’s Prepar3D simulation engine, Lockheed Martin also contributed to the design with flight modeling and avionics, and SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) participated with a mixed-reality component for added realism. Use of the AATDs is expected to drive down the cost of training while increasing the consistency in scheduling training events. The Air Force will have all of the devices on board by August 2023, according to the current plan.

A new logging feature helps pilots track external training events through the Redbird Pro app. [Courtesy: Redbird]

Redbird Pro Updates

In February, Redbird made a significant foray into tackling the core problem in pilot proficiency: How do you encourage pilots to up their proficiency plan, and stay on track between flight reviews? It launched Redbird Pro, an app that tailors training to an individual’s needs through the use of scenarios, gamification, and resources like articles and quizzes.

Each month, Redbird adds new scenarios to the app, along with skill flights, tests, and articles pulled from around the aviation community—including scenarios crafted by FLYING’s expert instructor Meg Godlewski, and installments from FLYING’s “I Learned About Flying From That” or “I.L.A.F.F.T.” series.

In July, Redbird added two IFR scenarios, covering weather and aeronautical decision-making plus radio communications and emergency operations, along with a VFR scenario that prepares pilots for the Fisk Arrival at Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH). Pilots can fly the scenarios in a Redbird device or chair-fly them with a CFI. 

Redbird also added an external event logging function to the app, through which pilots can track training events completed outside of Redbird Pro.

“Each feature and piece of training content added to Redbird Pro gives general aviation pilots a clearer picture of their proficiency and helps our algorithm provide better training recommendations,” said Redbird’s vice president of marketing, Josh Harnagel. “As we progress through our roadmap for Redbird Pro, we are confident it will become a one-stop shop for a pilot’s proficiency training and the single source of truth for their progress.”

An IFR subscription is $19.99 per month, while a VFR-only plan is $14.99 per month.

POC Version of Mixed-Reality TD

At the show, Redbird alsso unveiled its proof-of-concept device for mixed-reality training. Built on the same platform as the company’s basic aviation training device, the device adds in a mixed-reality headset to immerse the trainee in the environment, amplifying the visual cues to the learner.

Powered by Quantum 3D—a developer of visual simulation systems—the device allows pilots to move seamlessly between the simulated world and the real flight controls in front of them.

“The new proof-of-concept device is a promising step forward in enhancing the human-computer interface of simulated flight,” said Willinger. “In our years of research and development of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality systems, we had found that creating a more immersive visual environment came at the expense of impeding a pilot’s ability to interact accurately with the physical elements required in certified training devices. 

“This device allows pilots to see and adjust to everything inside and out of the flight deck—both virtual and physical—demonstrating that it could become an effective solution for professional flight training,” said Willinger. It’s intended for STEM education as well as advanced pilot training applications.

Haines to Board of Directors

Tom Haines

Finally, upon his recent retirement from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Tom Haines has joined the board of directors for Redbird Flight. Haines is the former editor-in-chief of AOPA’s publications, and was an executive vice president for the association.

“I’ve long been an advocate for modernizing flight training,” Haines said. “I look forward to working with Redbird to help bring new technologies to flight schools and individual pilots to make general aviation safer, more efficient, and more fun.”

“Tom has long been a thoughtful leader in general aviation, keeping his finger on the pulse of the industry and applying his insight and experience to help pave the way forward,” said Willinger. “His voice and vision will help Redbird continue to make a positive impact on the many students, pilots, and flight training organizations that utilize our technology.”

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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