RAF partners with PTN to innovate pilot training pipeline

  • Published
  • By Dan Hawkins
  • Air Education and Training Command

It’s been said that “seeing is believing” and after a visit last May to the Pilot Training Next facility in Austin and facing a pilot shortage, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force is taking innovation to the next level with the inclusion of a student and an instructor pilot in the second iteration of the class.

Pilot Training Next 2.0 is the continuation of the Air Force’s experimental training environment that integrates various technologies to produce aviators in an accelerated, cost efficient and learning-focused manner.

“The RAF needs to reduce the time it takes to train a pilot, as well as increase our overall pilot numbers,” said British Army Col. Paddy Logan, assistant director for flying training of the Headquarters 22 Group. “Our (RAF) chief of the air staff has given us the go–ahead to push the envelope and innovate our pilot-training pipeline. We don’t have the capacity to experiment this way, so having this partnership and having people here to learn what the (U.S. Air Force) is doing is invaluable.”

As the RAF transitions to the T-6 Texan II as their primary trainer aircraft, their goal is to incorporate PTN lessons learned into their undergraduate pilot training program almost immediately as they transition this fall.

“We are just now about to introduce the Texan II into our flying training program, so this is the ideal opportunity to begin weaving things learned here at PTN into the curriculum at the same time we are standing up vice incorporating them in later on,” said RAF Wing Commander Christopher Pote, Headquarters 22 Group. “We are looking at what we can do with the resources we have and use lessons from PTN to fill in the gaps that allow us to accomplish milestones like earlier solo flights, or fewer sorties to achieve competencies, while at the same time maintaining our standards and quality.”

Another aspect of the PTN program that has stood out to the RAF is the human performance element.

“The integrated approach to sleep, fitness, health, and diet together is what we should be doing,” Logan said. “We are treating them like high-end athletes, which shows our Airmen how much we value what they are doing and in turn can help with retention.”

For the PTN 2.0 team, the opportunity to have an international student and instructor pilot in the class has opened the aperture on learning even further as both countries face some of the same challenges in terms of pilot production and retention.

“We’re excited to have RAF participation in this class,” said Lt. Col. Paul Vicars, PTN director. “This strengthens the partnership with one of our closest allies by continuing to share best practices, and tackling difficult problems together.”