EMBRY-RIDDLE Aeronautical University is experimenting with the global-positioning system (GPS) as a means of evaluating students and instructors in its flight-training programme. GPS position data is being recorded in flight then replayed on the ground, to evaluate pilot proficiency objectively.

Embry-Riddle's campus in Prescott, Arizona has developed an experimental mission-recorder unit (MRU) containing a ten-channel GPS sensor manufactured by Magellan Systems. The portable, battery-powered, unit is strapped into the aircraft and connected to the GPS antenna. The MRU then records latitude, longitude and altitude every 10s during a flight.

The University has produced ten MRUs, which it began using during training flights in September. Initially, the data gathered are being used solely to debrief students, but Embry-Riddle plans to develop tools for evaluating proficiency as it accumulates experience with the system.

Plans call for commercial GPS avionics to be installed in the school's fleet of training aircraft and for these to be used as the data source. A data-storage unit will be designed for permanent installation at the same time as the GPS equipment, Embry-Riddle says.

The university says that GPS position data will "...provide a mechanism for objectively demonstrating student proficiency during solo operation. The knowledge on the part of the student that his solo operations will be scrutinised will certainly discourage the abuse of solo time."

Source: Flight International