Air Force Seeks New Ideas to Train, Retain Pilots

By Mandy Mayfield
An F-22 Raptor pilot

Photo: Air Force

A new Air Force initiative is calling on its personnel, industry and all aviation enthusiasts to create next-generation technology to train pilots.

The effort comes as the Air Force — and the aviation industry at large — faces a major pilot shortage that could threaten future readiness. The Pilot Training Next v2.0 Challenge is administered by AFWERX, an Air Force innovation hub with offices in Las Vegas, Austin, Texas, and Arlington, Virginia.

The goal of the challenge, which was open for submissions through early October, is to develop emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, biometrics, simulator development, virtual reality and adult education, according to AFWERX.

“What we are trying to do with the challenge is tap into those individuals who don’t usually have the opportunity to partner with the Air Force,” said Craig Leavitt, senior adviser at AFWERX. The organization is prepared to spend more than $300,000 on projects of interest.

The challenge also affords airmen the opportunity to share innovative ideas that can help retention in the Air Force, he noted.

“When you give people the opportunity to make a difference, they want to make a difference,” Leavitt said. “Airmen of all ranks get excited to be given freedom to help solve problems. We have anecdotal evidence that there are folks who were looking to leave the Air Force that have changed their minds and decided to stay.”

The new technologies could be adopted for the “Pilot Training Next” program, an experimental effort that uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence simulators to train pilots.

“We are actually allowing our students to explore these [AI] tools of learning and measuring what’s going on in their brain, what’s going on in their body, what’s going on with the effectiveness of them doing the job we are trying to teach them to do,” Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, Air Education and Training Command commander, said during an industry conference in September.

Leavitt said that although AFWERX has barely scratched the surface, it is already making breakthroughs with the effort. “We are using 21st century technology to dramatically accelerate learning … so human beings can learn to fly quicker,” he said.

Topics: Air Force News, Air Power

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