Civilian RPA Academy Reduces Pilot Training Time

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) on Aug. 25 announced the first class of graduates from its streamlined Unmanned Aircraft System Flight Training Academy, which is based in North Dakota. The company’s training academy offers “a dramatic reduction in the time required to train qualified aircrew” to fly Predator-class remotely piloted aircraft. Previously it took pilots six months to complete the program, but the new training academy can prepare pilots as quickly as two months. “Pilots complete 15 flights (36 hours), 25 simulator lessons (59 hours), and 114 hours of academic studies,” according to a GA-ASI release. The company says the training can also work to enhance the RPA training programs offered by USAF?. The Air Force is increasingly relying on contractors to fill pilot shortages. Former Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in June the service’s get-well plan for the remotely piloted aircraft community was seeing some success. This year, USAF expects to train 334 RPA pilots and 384 next year. That’s a big change from previous years when USAF was only able to produce roughly 188 pilots a year despite losing about 240. (See also: Reapers and the RPA Resurgence from the August issue of Air Force Magazine.)