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Pilot Training Next, Air Force ROTC partner for distance learning instruction

By Jennifer Gonzalez | Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs | Feb. 11, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

Pilot Training Next helped make Air Force ROTC history while pushing the limits of technology and training during their recent partnership with Clarkson University, Jan. 24.

For the first time ever, Air Force ROTC cadets with Detachment 536 at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, received real-time instruction remotely from a fully qualified Air Force instructor pilot sitting an airport in Louisiana.

“Det. 536 cadets are now able to practice their flying skills while closely following Air Force training standards,” said Lt. Col. Wesley Nims, ROTC Det. 536 commander. “This will give them a wing up on their counterparts at other AFROTC detachments.”

This proof-of-concept event is part of an ongoing effort by PTN to identify the impact of early access to content.

“From our past PTN classes, we know there is true value in students receiving content early on,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Riley, Det. 24 commander. “What we need to know is how early on we can give this information to student pilots, or left-load content.”

The use of virtual reality for distance learning was first used by PTN in 2018 prior to their second class, which started in January 2019. Leading up to the second class, PTN offered an immersive training device-only distance-learning program to students at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Eight students interested in joining PTN had full access to relevant learning materials and artificial intelligence supported training.

PTN leadership selected four of the eight students to join version two and upon their arrival, they possessed a greater working knowledge of Immersive Training Device functionality, T-6 Texan II systems knowledge and basic instruments. Two of the early access students were also the first to complete every milestone event.

Now this same technology is being tested and used at Air Force ROTC Detachment 536.

“It is exciting to watch these students, and possibly future Air Force aviators, take to the ITD’s,” said Maj Eric Reichert, Det. 24 assistant operations officer and remote instruction lead. “The students really get excited and the VR keeps them engaged and helps them grasp the concepts they will need to become a successful pilot in the Air Force.”

Additionally, Det. 536 has acquired headsets that allow both ground training and flight training in a fully-functioning VR environment. Air Force ROTC Det. 536 will conduct a second distance training session with PTN Feb.7.

PTN is an initiative to “reimagine” the pilot training pipeline. The program explores and could potentially prototype a training environment that integrates various technologies to produce pilots in an accelerated and learning-focused manner.