Quality flight training is on the forefront of the Aviation Industry’s mind at the moment as we grapple with the inevitable fact that there is a pilot shortage and will be for some time into the future. United States airlines are beginning to open up either trademarked cadet programs or their own flight training facilities to ensure a direct and constant flow of quality pilots into their respective airlines. For the time being, it will not be enough to cover the gap or shortage being created allowing private flight training providers to continue to flourish for the next several years. So how do you chose the right flight training provider, the right flight instructor, and ensure you are getting the same quality training that your peers will be competing with in your future airline interviews? Let me introduce you to the five bibles of aviation training from a U.S. perspective; the Airmen Certification Standards(ACS), Federal Aviation Regulations and Aeronautical Information Manual(FAR/AIM), Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK), Airplane FlyingHandbook (AFH) and Airplane Flying Manual or Pilot’s Operating Handbook(AFM/POH). These books are universal in nature from a flight training perspective, and your country’s aviation authority is certainly to have their own in some shape or form.
Why are these books so important? They build the foundation of aviation training. Let’s begin with the ACS, I call it the “Accountability Document” and here’s why. The ACS is what an examiner uses to build the exam they accomplish to determine if you meet the national standards for certification. As an examiner, I am not allowed to execute an exam outside of these standards. Although they are not the test itself, it tells you everything to expect on the test and where to find the information required to pass the test with references at the top of each page that contains an exam task. Ensure that you read it cover to cover to prevent expectation bias based on false assumptions of the test. It will also help eliminate some of the fear of the unknown.
When choosing a flight school or flight instructor to fly with, I would certainly ask how they intend to fulfill the requirements contained in the ACS. You may be surprised at some of the answers you get. If the flight school or flight instructor balk at the ACS, you may want to move on to the next flight training provider or instructor. During training, you can reference the ACS to ensure that your instructor’s goals for you are also the same as the ACS, or at least building toward the ACS. At the same time, you are holding yourself accountable to them as well. So the examiner, instructor and student (or learner), all have the same expectations of the exam.
The ACS is the beginning, but not the end all be all. The ACS lists references for each exam task from the other four books, and on occasion other government publications like Advisory Circulars (ACs). A quick aside here, I believe in a fundamental equation in aviation training…
Knowledge+ Skill = Safety
The order of the equation is purposeful, you need knowledge of a skill prior to acquiring that skill to be “safe”.
The next book to discuss is the FederalAviation Regulations and Aeronautical Information Manual. In the US, the applicable parts and chapters are condensed into one book containing both. This book is the foundational knowledge of how to operate in the National AirspaceSystem of the United States. It also contains the minimum training requirements for each certificate or rating you seek. These requirements exist in concert with those standards found in the ACS.
If we continue to operate under the above equation, the next logical book to become familiar with, read endlessly, and know inside and out it the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. This book contains about 98% of the knowledge to not only meet the minimum, but significantly exceed the minimum required knowledge that will be asked on the ground portion of your exam. The PHAK is used in concert with the Limitations,Systems and, Weight and Balance (Mass) sections of your AFM/POH.
Now that we know the “why” behind the“what”, it is time to jump into the Airplane Flying Handbook and read, prepare for and chair fly the required fundamental procedures and skills that will makeup your flight training providers Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Chair flying is nothing more than using the simulator of your imagination to mentally prepare yourself for what will happen in the aircraft itself. Here again, we find that the AFH works in concert with the following sections of the AFH/POH;Normal Procedures, Emergency Procedures, and Limitations.
Finally, the AFM/POH should be the transition between the government levied requirements, the aircraft you are actually training in, and your chosen flight training providers SOPs for certification. All of these documents should complement not only each other, but the flight instruction you are receiving and paying a significant price for. If this is not occurring, you may want to start communicating with your flight instructor first, then the flight training providers management team if concerns are not addressed in a timely manner.