The 2018 National Training Aircraft Symposium (NTAS) was held August 15-18 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Daytona Beach. Chuck Weirauch reports.

The Symposium drew fewer attendees than in past years but even so, the event featured more than 40 presentations and covered the usual wide range of topics, from pilot training to aviation cybersecurity. The theme of the 31st year of the event was “The Changing Role of the Pilot.”

Earl Weener, Member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), was one of the keynote speakers at the 2018 NTAS. He cited In-flight Loss of Control (LOC) as the leading factor of fatal accidents in general aviation, personal flying, instructional flying, business aviation and world-wide commercial jet operations through 2008 to 2017, and discussed the efforts of the industry-wide Loss of Control Working Group. To help reduce the number of such inflight accidents, Weener recommended a change in a flight departments safety culture management system, from the reactive and forensic “whack-a-mole” management to risk-based and predictive risk management. And everyone in the organization must be responsible for safety, not just the safety department, he added.

Other keynote speakers included Robert Joslin, the FAA’s Chief Scientific & Technical Advisor for Flight Deck Technology. He stressed the need to adapt existing training methods, or developing new ones that can safely and effectively interact with both current and new cockpit technologies. Crystal Maguire, executive director for the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC), cited a recent organization report that found that aviation industry mechanics are retiring faster than they are being replaced. To help meet this challenge, ATEC is encouraging aviation community involvement in the development of new regulatory standards, facilitating employer-employee partnerships, and enhancing access to mechanic testing. Captain Steve Dickson, senior vice president of Flight Operations of Delta Air Lines also provided a keynote presentation.

Pilot Training

In addition to these topics, NTAS presenters covered a number of views, methods and approaches to ab initio and advanced pilot training. For example: ERAU Assistant Professor of Aeronautical Science, Robert Thomas, outlined a study that validated the use of computer-based scenario training as a viable means for pilots to remain instrument current. Matthew Furedy of the Aviation University of Central Missouri discussed FAA Aeronautical Decision-Making training and how to help pilots recognize hazardous attitudes that may affect their decision-making process. Twelve ERAU assistant professors participated in a panel entitled Personal Safety Culture: A New Measure for General Aviation Pilots.

Mixed Reality

The application of virtual and mixed reality technology in aviation training was one of the major topics on the first day of the NTAS. Lori Brown, Associate Professor and researcher at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, described the Microsoft HoloLens-based JetXplore mixed reality applications she has developed and incorporated into the WMU aviation curriculum for cockpit instrumentation familiarization, flight procedures and maintenance training. ERAU’s Stephanie Fussell described a new state-of-the-art VR laboratory at the university for the further development of VR flight and maintenance training as a proof-of-concept test bed. Lulu Sun at ERAU described a study focused on improving air traffic controller training at the FAA Academy and Collegiate Training Initiative Schools through virtual reality applications.

UAS Training & Operations

This topic was covered from several different perspectives. ERAU’s Tom Haritos discussed the use of simulation to train complex UAS command and control tasks. Scott Burgess told the NTAS audience that with advanced UAS training, those small aircraft could be employed to help investigate aircraft crashes in remote areas. Ryan Wallace and others focused on how UAS operator behavior could lead to the UAS causing interference with aviation operations in controlled airspace. Phillip Craiger and Gary Kessler told how small UAS (sUAS) are susceptible to cyber-attacks. Hackers can take over their control and fly them into controlled airspace, crashing them to cause damage to installations and equipment, they pointed out.

The importance of UAS and aircraft maintenance was also discussed, both from a training and airworthiness perspective, as the two topics are related. The goal of the paper presented by Bettina Mrusek, Patti Clark and Kristy Kiernan called for the establishment of a formal, scheduled maintenance program for sUAS operators. Raymond Thompson of Western Michigan University described a scenario-based education program for large aircraft maintenance developed at WMU.

Pilot Shortage

The pilot shortage and the means to help improve the flow of qualified candidates through the pilot pipeline was yet another major topic discussed at the 2018 NTAS. Suzanne Kearns of the University of Waterloo recommended that aviation academia look at the pilot shortage from the viewpoint of sustainable development. This approach will provide a way to better understand the origins of the pilot shortage, and to help systematically develop sustainable solutions to the problem. In summary, Lindsey Van Beusekom, representing the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), stated that all aviation professionals have a role in maintaining the pilot supply ecosystem. They also should help strengthen the system by promoting the pilot career path and getting involved in mentoring programs, she summed up.

Nearly all of the 2018 NTAS proceedings can be accessed at

Published in CAT issue 6/2018