The US Federal Aviation Administration has been busy with a number of projects that aim to improve general aviation training and piloting standards. One is the FAA/industry training standard (FITS), which focuses on the single-pilot small reciprocating or jet-powered aircraft sector. FITS is designed to provide an overlay to basic flying training. FITS is type- and cockpit-equipment-specific, and tailored to the requirements of pilots who participate - including recurrent or refresher training.

It recognises that many cockpits contain advanced avionics or navigation systems - whether delivered with a new aircraft or retrofitted to an old one - and that although there is no regulatory requirement for GA pilots to prove their competence at using them, they will nevertheless be tempted to use the advantages the new equipment can theoretically deliver. It also recognises the problem that avionics from different manufacturers, even if they provide the same service (eg: a satellite navigation system), have different control interfaces.

The FAA says it does not want to have to change regulations or the basic requirements of flying licences, but to provide pilots with a validated, economical system of improving their skills with accredited training organisations and of winning recognition for having done so. The agency promises that a pilot who holds a current FITS certificate for the aircraft type, cockpit equipment fit and the specific category of flying undertaken will not only be safer, but find that insurance is cheaper and easier to get. Meanwhile, the training is economical because it is tailored. It does not require training for skills the pilot already has or for types or cockpits he/she does not fly, and includes simulation and interactive distance learning where necessary.

The FAA says FITS is still developing. Launch customers have included AirShares Elite, Elite Flight Center and Cirrus Design, which are working with the FAA to define FITS requirements. AirShares Elite provides an owner-flown fractional ownership programme for the Cirrus Design SR22, an advanced technology piston-powered type, and the Elite Flight Center is the training organisation for ab initio and transition pilot training for the SR22. Eclipse Aviation, manufacturer of the advanced technology small turbine powered Eclipse 500, is also participating.


Source: Flight International