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Colorado Heli-Ops & Scenario Based Training: A New Breed of Training!

Posted 13 years 167 days ago ago by Admin

By Mike Franz - For the majority of helicopter flight schools, their honest efforts to meet students’ goals of attaining FAAColorado HeliOps Certificates at various levels are based on the principles of Maneuvers Based Training (MBT). This system was developed during the era of the Wright Brothers, specific to airplanes, and teaches a pilot to “fly” to a Practical Test Standard (PTS) defined by the FAA. Although pilots who learn to fly through MBT can  “fly” the helicopter within the parameters for which they are trained, it is no doubt an antiquated training model by modern day standards.

Some years ago the airlines developed an updated training program called Line Oriented Flight Training or LOFT. LOFT is a better method of training because it revolves around real world simulated missions or flight scenarios. LOFT placed airline pilots into different situations during routine flight operations. It also exposed them to elements they would encounter during a flight and compel them to make aeronautical decisions and develop higher order thinking skills. This was truly the birth of Scenario Based Training (SBT) in aviation and set the standard for safety in Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM).

I think it’s a safe bet to say that all aviation professionals are concerned about safety and reducing accidents. As a 43 year long member of the helicopter aviation community, pilot evaluator, mentor and Flight Instructor, I have identified areas of training that are missing or misunderstood in helicopter flight training programs. I created a series of “Clarification and Enhancement Seminars” to bring these challenging areas to the attention of the helicopter training industry. Most recently, I have started an initiative to reduce the accident rate by providing SBT to flight schools who wish to train to modern standards and produce helicopter pilots with the same higher order thinking skills as an airline pilot.

Colrorado HeliOpsSome of my peers encouraged my efforts to improve Safety & Education within the flight training industry. They warned me however to be selective of where I placed my “Brand”. I began searching for “The” flight school from which to launch my effort.

Intro Colorado Heli-Ops

Wanting to be totally transparent to its students and staff; safety, integrity and goal fulfillment were of utmost importance to Dennis Pierce and Bentley Kendrick, founders of Colorado Heli-Ops.   Having witnessed the weaknesses in the flight training industry first hand, they set out to change the way things were done on many levels.  Pierce spent months researching the industry and ended with a SWOT analysis of the total training environment (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats).  Out of this research came a plan of action to change some of the fundamental focuses of flight training. The team needed a strong foundation with the right focus to set such a huge undertaking upon and thus, Colorado Heli-Ops was formed.

From the start, Colorado Heli-Ops hired CFIs who had experience flying in commercial operations to mentor their CFIs and pilots-in-training, in addition to offering them important contacts within the industry. From an aircraft standpoint, they acquired a Schweizer 300C and Robinson R44. These aircraft would work well for training at altitude and were also instrument equipped so that training for all Certificate levels could be provided.  Finally, they purchased two Frasca simulators and were off and flying, training pilots to reach their “Dreams” of being career helicopter pilots! 

In my opinion, Colorado Heli-Ops truly goes above and beyond when it comes to training. They have a 300 acre off-airport practice area only four miles from the airport with confined areas and pinnacles. They also sponsor safety seminars and advance training courses that cover such topics as NVG’s, Maintenance, Turbine Transitions and Mountain Flying. From day one they have been on the leading edge of helicopter flight training in the US with a strong focus on safety. Obviously Colorado Heli-Ops, with such clear goals and dedication was an operation for which I wished to be involved.

In May of 2010, I kicked off my “C&E seminar” tour at their facility with the training of their CFIs, staff and students. I also taught two RR250 Series Turbine engine ground school courses with Jet Rangers available for hands on training.

A “New Breed of Training” begins.

Having a strong personal desire, along with encouragement from my peers and National FAASTeam, I selected Colorado Heli-Ops team to begin my efforts in opening the industry’s eyes to Scenario Based Training.

Spending three days with them in September 2010, I provided both introductory and advanced programs about FAA Industry Training Standards (FITS), Scenario Based Training (SBT) and Learner Centered Grading (LCG).  These training methods further qualify them to be Facilitators and not just helicopter CFIs. Colorado HeliOps

Colorado Heli-Ops chose to break out of the antiquated mold of Maneuvers Based Training. Their staff totally embraced the SBT method of flight training and applied it on the very next flights. They immediately undertook the task of rewriting all syllabi to SBT format. CFIs were assigned in house presentations amongst themselves to further solidify their new skills. Discussions were held on the use of their Frasca simulator for SBT. I followed up with weekly progress checks and continuing support.

One of Heli-Ops Facilitators, Maureen Work stated,  “Scenario Based Training makes so much sense because the focus is shifted from making sure a student can simply perform a maneuver within standards in a controlled environment, to assuring that a pilot-in-training (PT) can employ Situational Awareness and Aeronautical Decision Making while performing maneuvers to the required standards. The content of most flight lessons does not change, while the intent of each flight mission does. This makes flight training empowering, exciting, fun and efficient.”

Heli-Ops owner, Dennis Pierce said, “In my opinion, SBT is a ‘no brainer’, the more you learn about this system, and then see it in action, the easier it is to understand how it can simply change the industry.  For our team at Heli-Ops, it’s just one more way that we can continue to ‘be a part of the solution!’”

Maureen also feels that “the assignment of rewriting Colorado Heli-Ops' training syllabi to convert them from the more traditional Maneuvers Based Courses to Scenario Based Training began as one of the most intimidating tasks of my short flying career. While the differences in the curricula are relatively subtle, the entire focus of the training program has changed. After I got over my initial reaction to what I perceived as an incredibly daunting project, it became clear that any flight school that has a dedicated staff willing to put in the time and effort will be able to successfully translate their existing program to one that uses SBT in a way that is unique and specific to themselves and their training environment”. Maureen has joined the “New Breed” as a dedicated professional in wanting to change the industry for the better. The over arching goal is to produce helicopter pilots with higher order thinking skills, thereby reducing accidents caused by pilot error!

The CFIs at Heli-Ops did not have to be sold on SBT as it made perfect sense. It was encouraging for me to see how well the SBT Facilitator training was received and how enthusiastically it was immediately enacted! It is an immense undertaking to change both the mindset and training methods of an entire industry. Fortunately, I do have the support of the Colorado Heli-Ops, FAA, NTSB, IHST, HAI, FAASTeam, major helicopter operators and other groups. It will take acceptance and effort by those joining the initiative to produce safer pilots with experience in real world operations and higher order thinking skills. Those not wishing to join the “New Breed” will eventually be left behind! What pilot will want to train in an antiquated 60 year old system in 2011 and beyond?

Colorado HeliOpsWith approximately 80% of all helicopter accidents caused by Pilot Error, SBT may just be the catalyst to produce pilots who make better Aeronautical Decisions from the beginning of their training. SBT training methods, technically advanced aircraft (TAA) and personal safety endearment will affect us all. I invite everyone to join my initiative and to be a key part of the “New Breed” in helicopter flight training.

Mike Franz is a 43 year veteran helicopter pilot and CFI who is sincere in his efforts to reduce accidents and provide a method for the training of modern day helicopter pilot. Contact: [email protected]