When the coronavirus first spread around the world and country after country went into reluctant lockdown for two, maybe three weeks, we thought, okay, we’ll get through this short stretch and move on. Then the stay-home orders were extended, and businesses were in serious jeopardy. A too-soon too-loose re-opening in many places simply prolonged the pandemic. And now we’re in will-this-ever-end limbo, wearing masks, waiting on vaccines, and avoiding places with quarantines, which puts a huge damper on air travel. And, by extension of course, aviation training.

As I was calling around the industry recently via Zoom, Teams, Skype, WhatsApp and traditional telephone, I expected to hear tales of devastation from simulation device manufacturers and training providers.

What I heard about instead was innovation.

Technicians can’t travel to install a new simulator? Partner with a company in country and coach them through it.

Classrooms closed? Expand and enhance remote training capabilities. Keep the students on the path to flight.

Engineers with time on their hands? Have them design a breakthrough new product. Or evolve an existing one.

Don’t know what the future holds, when the economic and airline recovery will kick in, or how long it will take? (No one does.) Make a plan anyway and continue moving forward in the ways you can.

I have been impressed, no amazed is more like it, by the imagination and resilience of the people in the simulation community since I found myself part of it, quite by happenstance, in the mid-80s. People who could conjure a virtual world out of silicon and electricity. Who could bring a crippled space capsule and astronauts back from the moon by validating work-arounds in a simulator on earth. Who could convert satellite images and photographs into a representation of the world so realistic and detailed most people cannot tell the difference. Who could convert the data from an operational flight, almost immediately, into a post-flight debriefing/training tool.

The beneficiaries of simulation technology for training, and the can-do spirit of simulationists, extend well beyond aviation – to other transport modalities such as rail and maritime, energy, mining, construction, healthcare, first-responders, other safety-critical professions, defence of course, and all levels of traditional education.

The world may be on pause, but many in our industry are using this time to fast-forward to the training modes of the future, embracing emerging technologies and adapting them to improve both the training experience and quality outcomes. They are cognizant of regulation, but not waiting for it to catch up; it rarely does.

The next few years, as we adjust to the new abnormal, are an ideal time to re-think and re-invent training. To start from a clean sheet and consider anything and everything. Not discarding wholesale, necessarily, the way it’s always been done, but extracting the best practices and incorporating them into the new methodology.

It’s the very nature of simulationists to believe that they can create whatever they might imagine. After all, they keep doing it time after time.

It’s the nature of instructors and mentors to believe that they can not only train someone to pass a test but that their students can excel in their chosen profession through the imparted knowledge and wisdom.

It’s the nature of young people to aspire, to believe they can soar, and it’s important that we continue to encourage that hope, tempered with sage guidance.

You might get the sense that we believe in this community, in its people, and in its brighter future. We believe because we continue to see it every day.