JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas – The third iteration of Pilot Training Next conducted their third and final graduation Sept. 3, 2020 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. The first four students graduated Aug. 13, 2020, the second group of four students graduated Aug. 21, 2020, and the final six students graduated Sept. 3, 2020.
Fourteen students, who began training in January, earned their pilot wings on time, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We graduated these students on time over eight months of training, even during a worldwide pandemic,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Riley, Detachment 24 commander. “We were able to successfully demonstrate the utility of remote instruction, and student-centered learning, which allowed us to operate at 96 percent efficiency.”
The third iteration started with 16 students: 11 from the U.S. Air Force, two from the U.S. Navy, one from the U.S. Marine Corps, one from the Air National Guard and one from the Royal Air Force. The next step for the new Air Force pilots is formal training for the B-2, B-52, F-16, C-5, U-28, KC-135 and RC-135.
“PTN versions two and three have been typical reflections of an undergraduate pilot training class,” said Lt. Col. Robert Knapp, Det. 24 operations officer. “Of that representative group, we had a standard bell curve of performance, but given the pace of the PTN program, our student pilots performed remarkably well because of their focus, determination and the training model.”
PTN uses a student-centered learning model, where students are encouraged to use divergent reasoning, problem solving and critical thinking. This learning model, with the use of virtual reality immersive training devices, self-paced academics, and a competency-based timeline fosters enhanced learning and allows student pilots to progress at individual paces.
“We move at the pace of the student, not the pace of the syllabus,” said Riley. “A great example is our students flew their initial pattern solo around their fourth ride. This wasn’t driven from a timeline event, but because they were ready to solo. Student-centric learning coupled with immersive learning and modern technology has proven to be highly effective and it’s all underpinned by quality instruction.”
Additionally Riley states, “PTN is successful because we have motivated instructors who find great value in instructor development and are better communicators from it. I am very excited for this aspect of our program to export across AETC. Quality, focused instruction fosters more efficient operations and deeper student learning.”
Student-centered learning fosters a cooperative learning environment featuring coach-athlete style instruction. In this learning environment instructor pilots are still the authority figure, but IPs and students play an equally active role in the learning process.
“We are truly proud of the advances in our training methods and our instructor corps’ ability to adjust their instructor styles,” said Knapp. “The coach-athlete style of instruction requires more dedication and investment by our IPs and would not be possible without their commitment.”
In addition to verifying the benefits of student-centered learning, ITDs and the value of quality instruction, PTN has also demonstrated the value of early access to content.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how much of a team effort our innovation efforts are. Our partnership with the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, US Navy, Royal Air Force, and myriad of civilian and government organizations is incredible and they are applying what is learned within PTN towards their own innovation efforts.” said Riley.
The proven concepts learned over the three iterations of Pilot Training Next are scaling through Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5, which is currently underway at JBSA Randolph and at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
“It’s exciting to see our lessons learned being applied to UPT 2.5,” said Riley. “The PTN work, which spans three years is destined to have a permanent impact on how we train future Air Force pilots and I am confident the professionals leading UPT 2.5 will raise the bar on the quality of students AETC produces.”
After this, PTN’s focus shifts to training air mobility fundamentals for students who graduate UPT 2.5 here, as well as developing instructors to provide the quality instruction needed to cultivate a cooperative learning environment.