The Advantages of Scenario-Based Training

by HPA · August 3, 2017

The Advantages of Scenario-Based Training

by Jennifer Payne

Over the years aviation training has undergone massive change and growth. Advancements in aircraft, new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety standards and procedures and the increased number of aircraft in the air are a few of the many reasons for implementing changes. As aviation training began to adapt to the changes in aviation, more expectations have been placed on pilots. Where it once took a few takeoffs and landings to get a pilot certificate, pilots are now required to have quite a lot of experience and knowledge as well as undergo extensive testing just to get to the next point. The way instruction is provided is important because not everyone learns the same way. Human factor studies are always trying to find a better approach to teaching.

Takeoffs, landings and emergency procedures are just a few of the important routines a pilot must master when learning to fly an aircraft. Basic maneuvers are also taught for the purpose of understanding how an aircraft responds during different stages of flight. Slow flight, steep turns, and stalls are just a few maneuvers that are taught during flight training. The point behind learning these types of maneuvers is to train the pilot to handle the aircraft appropriately in the different configurations. Stalls show how their aircraft responds prior to and during an actual stall. Slow flight teaches the pilot how to maneuver their aircraft at the point just prior to stalling. The maneuvers are taught at a sufficiently high altitude so pilots can practice the procedures and checklists where it’s safe. Later, if something were to happen on short final, 500 feet above the ground during landing, they will be less likely to panic because they know how to handle the situation, and recover safely. Each maneuver gives new insight to the pilot about their aircraft while teaching them to fly at the best of their abilities.

2017.07.18 05.43 Flyhpa 596e48de9b670 600x400

All stages of flight training are instrumental to the success of pilots, from learning to fly as a student pilot, through getting your commercial license. As with anything, the FAA is always trying to improve safety and training success within all areas of the aviation industry. Although the maneuver-based method of training has been successful throughout the years, it doesn’t always help for real-life scenarios. The purpose in training is to try and teach all aspects of aviation as best as possible, with the time given to each student. According to the FAA, scenario-based training (SBT) uses a highly structured script of real world experiences to meet flight-training objectives in an operational environment. Basic maneuver training is the foundation of learning, but utilizing SBT allows pilots to have an ever-changing environment, making them think about things that could possibly happen during their flight, keep them on their toes and allow for learning in situations they may never have thought about before.

The goal of SBT is not to put a pilot in danger, but place them in situations where they have to make choices based on safety and judgment. SBT also helps pilots correlate all of the basic maneuvers they have learned. Cross-country flying is a requirement throughout a pilot’s training process. Choosing an actual location that they may fly with friends and family down the road is an excellent way to incorporate SBT. Weather, runway distances, weight and balance, obstacles and go/no-go decisions are all situations they will have to face. This allows them to be in a real world experience while in the safety of training. Different things may come up such as runway closures, unforecasted weather, mechanical issues and so on, and they will have to create contingency plans and adjust for whatever comes their way, all while in the safety of a training environment.

2017.07.18 05.44 Flyhpa 596e48f09dfd5 600x338

SBT doesn’t just have to apply to cross country flights. It can be implemented in everyday, local practice areas or even pattern practice work. It all starts with preflight. During flight preparation, the instructor will discuss what will be done and what is expected. During this process, questions can be asked about what is needed during the flight, what hazards could be encountered, what can go wrong. This allows the training pilot to think about many situations that could transpire. It also allows them to come up with some contingency plans if an emergency occurs. When in the practice area, spontaneous engine-out training helps the student pilot to have to think quickly, find a landing spot, utilize checklists and still continue to fly the aircraft in a controlled manner. Not knowing when the “engine-out” is occurring allows them to always be ready even if they weren’t “ready”. Pattern work is a great place for SBT, go-arounds, wind changes causing runway changes, other aircraft, all keep the pilot constantly looking, talking, and flying without getting too comfortable. It’s a great place because the workload is higher, being lower to the ground and more going on due to multiple phases of flight occurring more rapidly.

Incorporating SBT into flight training teaches pilots to think about what could occur during a flight. Complacency is dangerous in the cockpit. It is important that pilots remember that no matter how smooth their flight may be, something could always change, and it only takes one error to lead to a deadly chain of events. SBT involves situational awareness, single pilot resource management (SRM) or crew resource management (CRM) as well as proper aeronautical decision making (ADM). If each of these actions is applied to each flight, the pilot will always be in control of their aircraft and ready for the next step. It’s impossible to think that every flight will be perfect but it is not impossible for the outcome to be safe in the end.

Jennifer Payne is a technical article writer with experience in flight instruction. She has a bachelor’s degree from Spartan College of Aeronautics and a Master of Science degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

2022.06.09 11.19 Flyhpa 62a27fea7716a


The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

More about Randy here:


Would you like more information?

Send us a message below.

8 + 13 =