The Future of Flight

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2019 by hillermuseum

By Jon Welte
Flight Training Devices and Flight Simulation

The training and preparation of new pilots has been an essential function since the dawn of modern aviation. Orville Wright’s triumphant first flight on December 17, 1903 could be attributed in part to his brother Wilbur’s crash in the same aircraft just three days earlier. When Wilbur first took the controls of the Flyer on December 14, he had no flight instructor upon whom to rely. The original 1903 Flyer was unstable in pitch, leading Wilbur to over-rotate and stall the airplane. When Orville’s turn came on December 17 Wilbur shared his experience, making it possible for Orville to succeed.

Pilot training evolved in a haphazard manner during the early years. Nonetheless, with the onset of World War I thousands of new pilots were needed. Inexperienced young men were sent aloft in aircraft perilously flimsy even by the standards of the day. More pilots were killed in accidents than by enemy fire. The French Air Force sought to limit the carnage by having cadets “fly” Bleriot monoplanes with clipped wings that were unable to fly. These “penguins” gave new pilots a workout, forcing them to learn how to operate the systems and controls of their airplanes on the ground. Only when pilots demonstrated sufficient control could they operate flying aircraft. Penguins of various design continued to be used for flight training into the 1930s.

In 1929 Edward Link transformed flight training with the first flight simulation device. Repurposing technology used in his parents’ organ company, Link developed a simulator known as the Link Trainer. The student sat within an enclosed cockpit that was moved by pneumatic bellows similar to those in pipe organs. Within the cockpit the student pilot used electrical and vacuum powered instruments to fly under simulated instrument conditions. An instructor sat at a desktop station and used a separate set of controls to simulate navigational aids, radio communications, and instrument failures. Widely used during World War II, over half a million military pilots trained in Link devices.

Commercial aviation grew tremendously after World War II. Pilot recruitment was not a serious challenge at first as military flight training programs had produced hundreds of thousands of skilled pilots and released them into civilian life. Many were happy to seize an opportunity to continue their piloting careers in peacetime. By the 1990s, however, the nature of pilot training had changed dramatically. Deregulation of the US airline industry caused demand for airline service to triple between 1975 and 2010. Concurrently, the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s significantly reduced the number of pilots being discharged from the military. Airlines increasingly sought to recruit new pilots from civilian flight training programs to fill out their ranks.

The civilian pathway to reach the “front office” of an airliner involves pursuit of a number of different certificates and ratings. Student pilots must secure a series of pilot certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration, most commonly Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot, and finally Airline Transport Pilot. Each certificate requires completion of a ground-based course of instruction to learn relevant knowledge, a set number of hours of flight training, and a successful practical test (“checkride”) demonstrating to an examiner that the candidate is able to execute a required set of maneuvers. Potential airline pilots must also master the skills needed to secure additional ratings for instrument flight and operations in high performance and multi-engined airplanes.

Up until reaching Commercial Pilot, the accumulation of flying time is entirely at the student’s expense. Once Commercial Pilot is reached, a pilot may fly for hire in a variety of roles (most commonly as a Certified Flight Instructor) while continuing to accumulate flight hours needed for additional ratings and certificates. The road to ATP is a long and expensive one, which has served to limit the number of student pilots entering the “pipeline” each year.

Since the onset of the 21st century, air travel has begun to blossom worldwide at much the same rate it did in North America a few decades earlier. Between airline growth and pilot retirements, nearly a million new airline pilots are expected to be needed around the world over the next twenty years. Current military and civilian training programs are not on pace to produce this number of trained aviators, leading to a series of efforts to bring new candidates into the fold.

The Hiller Aviation Museum has long been a repository of flight simulation history and expertise. It displays a recreation of a 1930-era Penguin airplane and an authentic pre-war Link Trainer. Since 2008 its Flight SIm Zone has made quality flight simulation available to the public, and a Redbird FMX full motion flight simulator was added in 2015.

The Hiller Aviation Museum likewise seeks to boost awareness of and interest in aviation careers among young people. Over 10,000 students visit the Museum each year on school field trips, and more than 1,500 attend Aviation Camp. In July 2019 the Hiller Aviation Museum hosted its first Girls Aero Team program, a special initiative funded by the JetBlue Foundation focused on providing middle school girls with an exclusive glimpse of the opportunities offered in the world of flight. Featuring a special presentation by JetBlue Technology Ventures CEO and JetBlue Airlines captain Bonny Simi, Girls Aero Team is just one of many forms out outreach underway today to ensure a steady stream of enthusiastic and capable pilot candidates to meet the world’s growing need for aviators now and well into the future.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: