Redbird Flight concluded its 13th annual Migration Flight Training Conference (Migration), bringing together industry leaders from flight training and K-12 aeronautics for a dynamic exchange of ideas and insights. The event, held from 5-6 March at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Houston, Texas, provided a platform for attendees of diverse backgrounds to engage with thought-provoking sessions and networking opportunities geared toward making progress in their shared goal of developing the next generation of aviation professionals.  

Redbird VP of Marketing Josh Harnagel began the conference by sharing insights from the company’s most recent edition of the State of Flight Training Report. Among the many trends observed in the report, which is now available to download via the Redbird website, Harnagel shared how the data continue to suggest that learners, prospective learners, and pilots are more likely to value the use of flight simulation in ab initio training than are their flight instructors and flight schools.

A session led by Patrick Chovanec delved into the appeal and impact of flight simulators for learners and prospective learners. An accomplished economic advisor, Chovanec took up flight training during the COVID-19 pandemic after building confidence and foundational flying skills using flight simulation software at home. His flight training journey, chronicled in his book “Cleared for the Option: A Year Learning to Fly,” underscores the positive outcomes possible for learners and flight training providers alike when they adopt a more personalized approach to training.

In a later session, Firecrown CEO Craig Fuller discussed how his company’s data-driven approach to media revealed that Chovanec’s foray into aviation is not an anomaly. According to Fuller, his company’s subscriber base has responded to content about flight simulation and even expanded because of it, dispelling long-held beliefs that pilots are only interested in real-world content. Like Chovanec, Fuller said that flight simulation was one of the primary hooks that drew him into aviation. He was exposed to simulation software at a young age, inspiring and motivating him to begin flight training at age 13.     

The use of interactive tools to reach students in increasingly younger age groups was an area of focus of the K-12 aeronautics track at Migration. The Aerospace Center for Excellence led sessions on expanding aeronautics programs at lower grade levels and engaging STEM students in K-5 to provide educators and administrators with data and a blueprint to support introducing aviation to students in elementary schools.

Beyond expanding the potential pool of pilots, the conference focused on identifying and collaborating on solving the issues preventing learners from completing their flight training. In his opening remarks, Harnagel highlighted the top challenges identified by flight training providers in the State of Flight Training Report, including the cost of aircraft insurance, pilot examiner issues, aircraft maintenance, access to training aircraft, and finding and hiring CFIs.

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