Simulator Based Flight Training Programs: A Solution?

High dropout rates and low enrollment --time and again flight training programs site these as concerns. We know these challenges stem from the time required to complete flight training and the inaccessible nature of airports/aircraft.  The question we need to answer is how do we address these challenges using todays technology and enable our customers (students) to access flight training at a time convenient to them?

Apply this concept of inaccessibility to the Asian or European markets and you find many countries with large urban populations and a lack of the appropriate infrastructure; airfields. The aviation industry is growing but these obstacles in flight training make it difficult for prospective pilots to train.   

The Simulator (Sim) Solution:

In an attempt to address these barriers to entry, two innovative sim. based companies have devised alternative training plans. 

Your first question might be, why simulators? They are more accessible than a plane and can be set-up anywhere, no airport required. Logging 30 hours towards certification in a convenient place could make a drastic difference in student retention rates.   

Sim. Training Programs that Work!

What if the concept of simulator based training could be adapted further into the framework of the flight training process?

Redbird Philosophy:

 Redbird Flight Training has taken a sim. based approach to flight training meaning they established a philosophy of logging as many training hours towards certification in a simulator as possible. They postulate their philosophy asSimulator for learning — airplane for demonstrating what you learned,” a slew of flight schools have followed suit and implemented the ‘Redbird training model.’ Their newest experiment… trying to push the FAA limit on the amount of simulator hours a student can use towards their license to 30 hours (it’s currently at 18-20). More time in the simulator allows for greater skill practice and analysis, safer and more convenient training hours, and potentially a quicker path towards a pilots license.

Zulu Flight Training:

Zulu launched in the U.S. but took their model to a more receptive European market. They have franchised sim. based training into a retail business and have taken it to city centers. Seems odd? Imagine having a busy week and being able to get two or three hours of flight training in at the same place you need to go to run your errands. By providing franchised stores in urban locations they aim to take away the inaccessibility of learning to fly. Similarly, the once rural sport of golf is now being taken to the virtual, sim. based world, and brought to convenient city locations. Why drive an hour to play when the simulator-based option is a block away? The future of many businesses relies heavily on “instant accessibility”, a concept Zulu picked up and ran with.

According to the General Manager of Zulu Flight Training, Gloria Liu, “a simulator integrated curriculum with training available in a convenient location has greatly increased frequency of training for our students, and this in turn has enabled us to keep student retention rates of greater than 96%.”

Apply that theory to countries with airports few and far between and a serious solution to airport access has been discovered .By providing a more accessible option (at least for a portion of flight hours) flight schools may see a higher retention rate of students and developing nations will have the initial tools to train their pilots. Further, Zulu stresses its sole focus on sim. based training. Rather than competing with flight schools they franchised solely the sim. portion of training, leaving all aircraft training hours to the traditional flight schools.


According to Zulu’s most recent press release, “Zulu’s syllabus of 37.5 hours in the airplane and 18 to 20 hours in the sim… was recently approved under the FAA’s FITS guidance.” Could this be a step towards Redbird’s goal of 30 hours in the sim.? These programs are increasing accessibility and averaging lower drop out rates as a result. Not to mention, an hour in a sim. costs 1/3 of an hour in an aircraft. The more hours logged towards a pilot’s license in a simulator, the lower the total price of flight training becomes. If companies like Zulu and Redbird continue to push the usage of simulators they could make flight training more affordable, more enjoyable, and more accessible.