Revolutionizing Pilot Training in Prescott

A student practices flying a plane on a True Course Simulations program.

There’s a revolution underway in Embry-Riddle Prescott’s flight training courses. Aviation faculty member Ray Bédard and his team of Embry-Riddle students and alumni have designed True Course Simulations (TCS) software to better prepare students for flight activities in the Aeronautical Science degree program.

“As an Academic Advisor, I heard my students say they wanted flexibility, more enjoyable learning and cost savings. The old way used books and paper and drawings on the white board — not very engaging. Some had to re-do lessons or even courses because they did not retain the learning,” said Bédard. “TCS revolutionizes the way pilots-in-training learn because it is based on the premise that students learn best by using all three channels: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. The result is a series of dynamic lessons where the students ‘Read it, Watch it! and Do it!’.”

In flight training, students incur costs with each instructor meeting and every flight activity. Being prepared to practice mastery of the learning objective on the first attempt saves time and money and builds confidence in students.

TCS consists of 60 lessons with 200 learning objectives currently used in conjunction with the Ground School classroom course for the private pilot course. This Spring semester, the lessons will be extended and taken concurrently with flight activities to better match the pace of learning by the student pilots.

“As a student at Embry-Riddle currently in training as a private pilot,” said Dillon Smith, Embry-Riddle Prescott student, “I am confident that my engagement with True Course Simulations has accelerated my flight training, saving me precious time and money as well as made me an overall better pilot.”

Built on Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D flight simulation platform, TCS is customized to Embry-Riddle’s specifications using realistic visuals to illustrate the principles in action. Students read flight briefings, watch videos, and fly simulation exercises to develop mastery on the ground before going flying.

“We took the Flight Training Course Outline and mapped every learning objective to exercises in TCS,” said Bédard. “Students have a lifetime subscription to the software so they can go back at any time to review the content and practice their simulated flight skills. We made it responsive to all electronic platforms, so that students have the flexibility to read the briefings and watch the videos on their own time.”

Assessment analytics are an important feature of the software. TCS has a built-in Engagement Dashboard allowing faculty to track and analyze student activity, including how many times a student attempted the exercise, how long they were engaged and their success rates. In the Fall semester, approximately 100 students used TCS resulting in over 160,000 data points currently being analyzed.

“We intentionally integrated cutting-edge educational recording software, GrassBlade LRS, and information analysis technology, Extenso, to make this a powerful tool for instructor evaluation. So, not only does TCS benefit the student, it also allows for performance analysis of student behavior by their flight instructors who will know how and when to best help their students at any point during their flight training,” said Bédard. “There’s nothing else like this available right now.”

An initial review of metrics show the software, first tested during the 2015 Summer semester, is working. Of those who completed the course, all have finished their Private Pilot’s check-ride ahead of the traditional student timeline. “It’s all about the students. The best compliment is seeing students in the lab at 7 a.m. to fly their missions,” said Bédard.

Bédard is especially proud that his software development team is made up of current students and alumni. “My strength is finding the diamonds-in-the-rough and giving them opportunities,” said Bédard.

The TCS team is already exploring how to develop software for other Embry-Riddle Prescott flight activities.

For more information on True Course Simulations software, contact Ray Bédard at ray.bedard@erau.edu

Testimonials
I have been with the TCS team since the beginning and have personally designed and overseen every lesson in the course. I’ve been exactly where these students are now. I know how they think and work, and I share their frustrations with the old, book-based system. That’s what drives me to never settle for second-best and to design a system that can work for everyone. I know how ERAU instructors teach, and I intentionally present information in a complimentary — but diverse — way. Some students learn differently than others, and now they can learn and experience the material with us, and then again with their instructors using a different approach. I believe that experiencing the information not just multiple times, but also in multiple ways, is crucial for the process of retention and understanding.
Brian Wiesner
Certificated Flight Instructor, Embry-Riddle Prescott graduate and TCS Project Manager
My time as an intern with True Course Simulations has been everything I ever wanted out of an internship. The work environment is team-oriented and friendly while the work itself has challenged me to push my knowledge of subjects like programming well beyond my previous limits. Mr. Bédard is a responsible employer and cares about both student and employee outcomes. Under his supervision, I created applications which have saved the company hundreds of hours of work, simplified processes, and helped everyone involved develop a higher understanding of how TCS records and manages student data. TCS is a fantastic and innovative company which I want to see excel into the future.
Stephen Whisman
TCS intern Fall 2015, Alumni Embry-Riddle Prescott
Shortly after graduating from ERAU, Ray Bédard introduced me to TCS and provided me with an opportunity to learn about creating simulation lessons. It quickly sparked my interest in developing scenarios that could help students save time and money, something I wish I had when I was working on my PPL. My primary duty is to convert the mission plans designed by the CFIs into actual flight simulation missions in Prepar3D. This task is challenging for me because my programming experience was minimal prior to this project. Since we are the first company in the world to do this type of project at this level, there are very limited resources to help us. Fortunately, as a team, we tackled every challenge together and improved our collective knowledge base. One great thing about TCS is the flexibility: I can work anywhere, anytime. I can work at home by myself and stay really focused on the work which increases efficiency. We often help each other to solve technical challenges by remote sessions. We had to develop new technology and new software to complete this very challenging project.
Benson Hui
TCS assistant project manager and lead mission designer, Alumni Embry-Riddle Prescott
As a student at Embry-Riddle currently in training as a private pilot, I am confident that my engagement with True Course Simulations has accelerated my flight training, saving me precious time and money as well as made me an overall better pilot. TCS brings chair flying to a whole new level as it allows me to simulate every aspect of every flight I will do with my instructor. This boosts my confidence going into lessons and prepares me more than I ever could with my own resources. The briefings with my instructor are extremely short and my flights are executed with perfection the first time. I have not had to repeat a single lesson since I started my flight training and I attribute a lot of that to TCS and my willingness to utilize it diligently. My flight training costs a lot less than originally projected and TCS is the main reason. True Course is an excellent tool for flight students if used consistently. It has made a world of difference in my education at Embry-Riddle and I feel privileged to have access to such a powerful tool.
Dillon Smith
Embry-Riddle Prescott Student
In my Aviation internship with True Course Simulations, I had a tremendous experience learning from Mr. Bédard. Throughout the program, I was under his leadership and I became his right hand man for his business almost instantly. From attending group meetings to individual sessions, I was able to learn in a real working environment and use my skill set to help the company grow. The best part of this internship was the feeling of helping the Fast Start students reduce the flight hours in their flight training, thus, helping them save money. My role was to act as a mentor and guide them through any problems. Being able to bond with these students and watch them grow as pilots makes me proud to be a part of the TCS team. I love asking the students in the beginning of each simulator session if they have flown in the morning. If so, I would then ask if they enjoyed their flight and if this program has benefited their flight training, in which they always gave positive responses. Seeing these students arrive one hour earlier to the simulator lab proved that this training program works and they were having fun while doing it.
Jerry Yeung
TCS intern Summer 2015, Alumni Embry-Riddle Prescott
The goal when writing content for TCS was to take professional flight instruction and make it available for students to utilize at home. As a former ERAU instructor, I wish a program like this had already been available for me to refer students to throughout flight training. Preparation for flight maneuvers is generally limited to reading flight theory and reviewing procedures, with nothing available for hands-on practice. Upon completion, TCS will provide flight students the ability to practice and review maneuvers outside of the aircraft, which will increase proficiency, reduce flight cost, and make flight training an overall more enjoyable experience.
Stan Westerman
Alumni, Briefing writer He is flying a PA31-350 Piper Navajo super chieftain in the northern Marianas islands for a part 135 scheduled and on-demand charter company. He is also an initial operating experience (IOE) line check airman for the PA32-300 Piper Cherokee 6.