Staff at No. 1 Flying Training School (1FTS) kept pilots in training during the COVID-19 pandemic with five key initiatives.

When sweeping social-distancing restrictions looked probable back in March, 1FTS instructors got to work on virtual online training packages for aerodynamics, meteorology, Morse code, and aircrew strength and conditioning— and began the development of a training aid application for the PC-21 heads-up display.

The online training programs were a success.

Nearly 60 student pilots completed a two-week extension course on aerodynamics theory, with up to two hours videoconferencing in the mornings followed by Q&A sessions with the instructor via a secure group messaging app. 

Commanding Officer 1FTS Wing Commander Chris Pouncey said he was delighted with the outcome.

“The instructors demonstrated real initiative – they designed and delivered a package which provided the students with the breadth and depth of knowledge (in aerodynamics) required of a badged pilot,” Wing Commander Pouncey said.

“The students responded very well, achieving excellent results in their summative assessments.”

While face-to-face tuition was an early casualty of COVID-19, 1FTS still had access to experts to develop online programs to keep student pilots in training. 

The Bureau of Meteorology provided the talent for a one-week course in meteorology. 

With assistance from the Director Aircrew Training Transition Office, 1FTS also generated a digital short course in Morse code, and students achieved a standard of seven words a minute.

The students responded very well, achieving excellent results in their summative assessments.

The expertise for remote aircrew strength and conditioning training was available at 1FTS. 

A mandatory self-paced program that could be conducted in compliance with state restrictions was developed by a 30 Squadron physical training instructor.

The four-day program was distributed online and completed each week by 1FTS students.

This was key in preventing musculoskeletal injuries in aircrew who faced the physical demands of the high-performance PC-21 aircraft.

Trainee pilots also came up with ideas. 

One 1FTS student, with a background in software development, has been working with a staff member to produce a heads-up display training aid, which may one day benefit all PC-21 users and facilitate limited student mission rehearsal. 

The training aid was recently released for trial within 1FTS.

As COVID-19 restrictions gradually evolve, student pilots can look forward to the return of more conventional training.

But 1FTS now has a working blueprint to meet any further challenges that may arise because of the pandemic.

“Students and instructors have demonstrated remarkable patience and resilience,” Wing Commander Pouncey said.

“I’m extraordinarily grateful to the 1FTS staff for the way they have responded to the challenges of COVID-19. 

“Despite necessary control measures, 1FTS staff have genuinely achieved a maximum sustainable effort in the pursuit of the unit’s directed training requirement.”