Visionary Training Resources (VTR) is partnering with the College of Aeronautics and Engineering (CAE) at Kent State University to integrate virtual reality (VR) technology into the university’s senior-level Professional Pilot course. The progressive course, which examines the systems used in air transport aircraft and focuses intently on the Boeing 737, prepares students on the principles and operations they will soon encounter as professional pilots in airlines, cargo operations, and business aviation.

Students will utilize flight deck familiarization modules, as well as checklist and procedures training and assessment modules developed by VTR, to augment traditional learning materials and enhance their grasp of critical information. The fall 2023 class is set to complete an oral exam in a VR environment, a first and exciting step toward the incorporation of previously inaccessible flight decks in a thoroughly immersive manner.

The introduction of VTR’s VR training modules and flight deck in spring 2023 was met with enthusiastic reception from the students. “The VR training would be extremely helpful for not only [the air transport class], which requires us to memorize where certain items are in the flight deck; this would also be helpful in preparation for airline training,” remarked one insightful student. Other students echoed this sentiment, appreciating the realism and immersive qualities of the virtual flight decks, which fostered a hands-on approach to learning, solidifying their understanding and retention of complex systems.

Jim Sebastian, a professor at CAE and a captain with Southwest Airlines, shared his perspective on the initiative: “While immersed in the virtual flight deck, students will be trained and evaluated on their knowledge of aircraft systems and procedures while experiencing all the realistic issues, distractions, and additive conditions that come with being a professional pilot. They will be tasked with applying their systems knowledge and managing normal flight deck tasks while assessing and mitigating risk using all available resources, simulating the type of training they’ll receive in a professional airline training course. The VR is a realistic simulation that will both challenge and train the students. VR is the future of education and training, and I’m looking forward to using this tool in my class as a baseline to expand to other courses.”

To oversee the successful implementation of the VR programs, Dr. Stephanie Fussell, a VR Aviation Research Scientist at VTR and an Assistant Professor and Aeronautics Program Coordinator at Kent State, is collaborating closely with Sebastian. Together, they aim to ensure that this innovative technology significantly enhances learning outcomes.