The U.S. Air Force Air Education & Training Command graduated the first 13 students to participate in its new Pilot Training Next program (PTN). In what the (AETC) says is a paradigm shift in education, training and the capitalization of experiences, PTN is the embodiment of student-centric learning, the PTN is a six-month program that integrates various technologies with the idea of producing pilots in an accelerated, cost-efficient, learning-focused manner.

This initiative focused on providing a personalized learning environment for every student, according to Lt. Col. Robert Vicars, Pilot Training Next director, who says they showed  by using immersive technology, they helped people learn more effectively, deeper and faster.

USAF Pilot Training Next class

The parents of 2nd Lt. Nickolas Brandt, Pilot Training Next student, pin on his aeronautical wings during his graduation August 3, 2018, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, Austin, Texas.

PTN is discovering what makes people good at this “art of military aviation and being an Airman in the vertical dimension,” said Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, commander of AETC, “When we know what makes people good at that, we might be able to find ways of teaching them to be good at it faster and better than ever before.”

Unlike the traditional undergraduate pilot training model, PTN offers students the opportunity to learn in a collaborative learning environment in a learner-centric way, in line with AETC’s redesigned Continuum of Learning model. The most significant difference between the traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) and PTN learning environments is PTN encourages students’ autonomy and individualized training, as opposed to the UPT students’ set syllabus.

To place learning and success in the program in the hands of each learner, PTN cadre challenged students to seek new ways to learn and search for solutions with an open mind, all while training on the timetable that best meets each individual’s learning needs.

Different than traditional training pipelines across the Air Force, PTN gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of virtual reality and simulators in the classroom environment, and through access to a simulator in their living quarters.

Students across the program attributed their success to the availability of the flight simulators when and where they needed it. PTN leaders are using the lessons learned from students and instructors in this first class to improve the learning experience for the next iteration of the class, tentatively set for January 2019.