NEWS | Feb. 28, 2019

Innovation, scalability and data the focus as PTN 2.0 begins

By 1st. Lt. Geneva Giaimo Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

The second class of students participating in Pilot Training Next at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, began Jan. 17.

During the program, student pilots will learn to fly the T-6A, leveraging off-the-shelf training aids and virtual reality simulators.  The instruction in this second version is shaped from the success of and lessons learned from the first PTN program, where 13 officers graduated in June 2018 and progressed to advanced training across multiple platforms.

This class is comprised of 26 students, including 16 active duty officer students (six of whom are participating in a remotely-piloted aircraft only track), two Air National Guard officers, two U.S. Navy officers, one Royal Air Force officer, and five enlisted Airmen.

Instructor pilots from across AETC were selected to train the new students based on their skills and fit with the goals of the PTN team.        

“Innovation and change are necessary,” said Capt. Calogero San Filippo, PTN instructor pilot.  “The freedom of movement in this program offers us the opportunity to really explore different avenues, and that is exciting.  We are going to do the best we can as instructors to make sure our training is beneficial down the road.”

The five enlisted Airmen are participating in the class, similar to the first iteration, are part of the effort to understand how people from non-traditional talent pools perform in this environment.

AETC senior leadership has challenged Airmen at the squadron level to take a deep look at their current curriculums and procedures to find the best way to inspire and develop Mach-21 Airmen. The PTN cadre has played a major role in this effort, studying both how students learn and how to effectively teach flying training.

 “We have three focus areas for our team during this iteration of training,” said Lt. Col. Paul Vicars, PTN director. “First, we must empower our instructors and Airmen to be able to innovate by providing them the resources and authority to fail fast and learn. Second, we need to capitalize on that learning by scaling as rapidly as we can.  Finally, we need to collect, analyze, understand, and use the data to build a process of continual improvement.”

Like the first version of PTN, the second iteration is working collaboratively with AFWERX, building connections with industry to help them work solutions to issues they encounter as they develop the program.

“AFWERX hosted a pitch competition where we were able to look at available commercial solutions to some of our technology needs,” Vicars said. “They also supported us with two small business innovation research programs. The connection with AFWERX has been essential to our ability to rapidly advance.”   

During his welcome to the new pilot students and cadre, Vicars highlighted the incredible amount of talent in cadre and student class and charged the whole PTN program to further innovate and refine how we teach and learn.

“What you decide this will look like, it will look like,” Vicars said. “You are building the foundations for what flying training will look like long into the future.”