Training for success. Neil Shaefer explores the importance of flight training and the ways we learn.

The concept of training is nothing new for any of us. We’ve either had to do it through our educational schooling, our jobs or chose to do it to learn something new or to improve ourselves. Sometimes we even have to turn the tables and become the trainer, whether it’s with children, colleagues or those lovable creatures we allow into our homes!

I don’t know about you, but for many years I looked at training as a grind – an imposed set of drills and disciplines backed up by lecturing rants and justification that required endurance and persistence. Sound familiar? Just ask your kids most days how they enjoyed their day at school!

I realised after many years of corporate training coupled with my sporting pursuits, that there were two important ingredients that were often missing. I sometimes would stumble on a great coach or mentor who I just “clicked” with and not only did I progress, but I became more enthusiastic to learn, more motivated and more driven. So what were these rare attributes that seemed to make all the difference in my learning and success, these tenets of wisdom that accelerated me to my goals?

Motivational speakers often say that there is only one true type of motivation and that’s self-motivation. Inspiration on the other hand can come in many forms: a picture, a YouTube clip or that annoying flying dream that just won’t go away. RAAus latest promotional video on YouTube is a call to arms for anyone who has the yearning for accessible flight and realising your flying dream starts with flight training.

Recreational flying and all the other associated activities around it are fun, but serious fun. For most of us that’s why we do it – sure it may lead us down paths we never dreamt of, but if it isn’t fun then we probably won’t go there or will even give up early in our journey. Doing something enjoyable is a great platform to enable learning. Childhood educators and psychologists have spent years dissecting human behaviour at all levels to understand what engages us to learn. It’s no surprise that if it’s fun, then we already are off to a flying start. This is often coined as the law of effect, if you have a positive experience you’ll progress; if you don’t, you won’t!

In the principles and methods of instruction we talk further about the laws of learning, one of the important ones is the law of readiness. Is the student ready to learn this new skill? What is their motivation? Have I understood what I need to invest and how have I prioritised resources to make this happen? Surprisingly, many people today still think flying is too hard, or they’re not smart enough; it’s a perception at RAAus we are focussed on reshaping.

There are other powerful motivators to learning, such as money, success, security, self-esteem and fear. However, unless our hearts are in it, we often only learn what we need to pass and our retention is also less likely to be anchored in long-term memory. As the saying goes, you may long forget what was said but you seldom forget how something or someone made you feel.

Of course, teachers can force feed learning through repetition (some of us can still remember our times tables) and this still is a component of learning in flying today. Circuits…don’t talk to me about circuits! Rote learning is based on repetition of the exercise and our brain adapts to this form of teaching but so often it doesn’t understand the why in what we do or how it actually works. This is really important in aviation, if you don’t know the why, then it is easy to step away from the disciplines you learnt in your training. Facilitated learning, where you couple your motivation to the right level of information you receive is a far more effective method to enhance understanding and embedded learning and this is the model that is often used successfully in flying. The mantra of See one, Do one, Learn one underpins the direct, monitor, coach principle which focuses on the visual and tactile observation, then practice and repetition in any exercise which helps the pilot progress through their training.

RAAus has developed a revised focus on training initiatives for our members in 2020 and we are delivering these on a number of fronts in flight training, safety initiatives and airworthiness and maintenance programs. Training has always been one of the fundamental building blocks to accessing recreational flight since the creation of Civil Aviation Order 95.25 way back in the ‘80s and not surprisingly, has delivered the most substantial safety outcomes in our 30-year history, but now we are incorporating dedicated resources to deliver training enhancements, in flight training, airworthiness knowledge and skills to further assist safety outcomes and member knowledge and understanding.

Like most things this is not a simple task and requires our key authority holders to be on board. Instructor standardisation, proficiency checks, appropriate resources and continuing development process are just a few of the attributes RAAus has a responsibility to manage to ensure effective training delivery for our members. Being abreast of the range of training resources and platforms that are constantly evolving in our industry is also paramount to future success. Challenges such as COVID-19 have forced RAAus to review the delivery of services to ensure continued participation and development in aviation training. While online resources can never be a substitute for the real thing, the very nature of visual learning in flight training creates an opportunity for video tutorials and simulation technologies to assist in the advancement of pilots in their training.Progressive training schools are investing in tools such as these to enhance their value proposition for students. RAAus has developed strategic partnerships with organisations such as Bob Tait Theory and GoFly Online to provide access to learning resources in addition to those already available through RAAus directly and other aviation agencies.

The use of simulation tools for flight training is wellestablished in the aviation industry but hasn’t been explored in the recreational sector to any great degree. However, this is about to change. One of the development projects for 2020-21 is to scope and develop simulation training tools for RAAus pilots and significant groundwork has already been completed in this area.

So, if there is one truism in aviation, it is that you never stop learning and fortunately this creates a vast opportunity for RAAus and our members to continue this never-ending journey together. So, what’s your next learning opportunity?