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The following appeared in the January 2002 issue of AVIONICS NEWS


Do you have the time to spend teaching those new avionics to your customers?
Are you ready for your customers' tough questions about the operation of the latest avionics?

This four part series is devoted to the often-overlooked area of advanced avionics training. Written by Howard Reisman, (chief executive officer, and Paul Novacek, vice president-product development of ElectronicFlight Solutions Inc., a new breed of training organization, the series is designed to provide an insight into an innovative and effective training alternative for both pilots and avionics technicians.

Avionics technicians and avionics shop managers are relied upon to be prepared and ready for any situation that a customer may present. Let's see if you're ready for this one. A customer walks in after returning from his first flight with that newly installed Garmin 530 GPS. He asks, “Can you show me how to fly an approach with this thing? I know you showed me the basics, and I tried to read the manual, but it’s a little overwhelming. All I really care about is shooting approaches. All that other stuff, like flight plans, I just don't need. I always go direct."  Are you ready to answer that? You know the other stuff like understanding flight plans is essential before he can ever understand approaches. Do you have the time to spend with him? Did your quote account for more training? Can you refer him to a local flight instructor and does he expect you to pay for the instructor?

If you are ready with an organized and comprehensive training plan, congratulations. If you're not ready, you’re lucky, for the future brings with it a solution.

Dramatic Changes In The Cockpit

The avionics market has undergone dramatic changes over the past several years with the explosion of GPS technology into the cockpit. The satellite-based navigation system basically changed all the rules. However, the FAA has not moved as quickly as the technology. Unfortunately, the FAA does not mandate any form of training for advanced avionics systems in order to earn a rating. The importance of training in these advanced systems can't be overemphasized. NASA’s incident reporting system, the ASRS, is full of reports about pilots missing clearances and blundering into restricted airspace. All caused by misusing their avionics. There are plenty of well documented cases where a lack of avionics knowledge even contributed to a crash. It is well acknowledged that the John F. Kennedy Jr. crash in 1999 may have been prevented had he received training in the use of the autopilot in his Piper Saratoga.

Show Me The Training

Training is an integral part of any avionics upgrade, and should be a part of the overall package. Likewise, a new aircraft comes with the latest avionics, but beyond the initial training that concentrates on just keeping the shiny side up, the difficult questions usually default to the avionics shop. But who is really doing the training and who is responsible to provide it?

Traditionally, the flight instructor has been responsible for training the pilot in all aircraft systems. But with the constant change of avionics in modern cockpits, flight instructors are finding it difficult to provide the necessary training. Furthermore, CFIs have had minimal exposure to these newer technologies, as their instruction has been limited to conventional avionics. So they are unable to offer the pilot any meaningful training in the proper use of the advanced technology.

To make matters even more critical, OEMs have limited their avionics training commitment to brief excerpts in the Pilot Operating Handbooks, or in some instances, a CD-ROM simulator. A good attempt, but still not complete.

Which is how this story returns to the avionics shop technician or manager. Typically those pressing questions about flying a GPS coupled approach or interpreting an EGPWS “pull up, pull up” warning are handled by the avionics shop. Is pilot training part of your business mission, or should you be focusing on your core business (the repair and installation of those avionics)? If only there was some way to off load the customer training requirement and have the piece of mind that your customer is in competent hands.

On To Solutions

Well, help is just around the corner. ElectronicFlight Solutions Inc. is developing a series of comprehensive avionics training programs for both your customers and the avionics shop staff.

The ElectronicFlight Solutions training strategy is built around the CompleteLearning Avionics Library of computer-based and web-based training programs. The library has five volumes addressing GPS Navigation, Autopilot, Weather, Traffic and Terrain Awareness, and covers them in both a generic as well as a product specific manner. At the very core of the program is the ElectronicFlight Complete Learning Methodology that focuses on the following basic elements:

Beginning in April 2002, avionics shops will be able to offer customers a training alternative deserving of the quality installations they provide. The training can be offered either as part of an installation bid or offered as individual training products. The program includes Computer-Based Training (CBT), instructor-led classroom training and flight training/checkride for ElectronicFlight certification.

In the coming months, this four-part series of articles will provide insight into the ElectronicFlight CompleteLearning™ program on advanced avionics from leading avionics manufacturers including Honeywell, Garmin, Goodrich, Sandel, UPSAT, S-TEC and Ryan International. ElectronicFlight Solutions will work in conjunction with AEA member shops on a national basis providing customers with the training that is essential for pilot safety and in making the transition from flying VORs and NDBs to full GPS-driven state-of-the-art avionics.

Part 2 of this series of articles will explain the program and provide some insight into the Terrain and Traffic modules of the ElectronicFlight CompleteLearning™ Library.

ElectronicFlight Solutions Inc. is an associate member of the AEA. For more information visit www.ElectronicFlight.com or call (505) 265-4055.