Low Hanging Fruit: Flight Training Experience Prior to SUPT
There is a factual and undisputable discrepancy between the success of minorities and non-minorities as USAF pilots; data from 2004 to 2010 revealed that minorities were twice as likely to fail to complete UPT than their majority counterparts (Ruffin, 2017).
The failure rate of minorities in USAF pilot training is well chronicled. This failure represents a huge dollar loss in training invested and is one of the single greatest reasons the Air Force senior leader diversity landscape looks the way it does. An investment in flight training prior to SUPT makes sense from a financial stewardship viewpoint; it will also generate early interest in aviation amongst minority youth.
The validity of providing flight training before entry into pilot training is one that the Air Force senior leadership can glean from its own history. Several times in its history, the Air Force has used an external source to provide initial flight training for future pilots before entry into its formal pilot training program. Efforts along these lines are low-hanging fruit that have proven successful since the formation of the Army Air Corps.
I have pasted in a discussion from “Black Ceiling” of two programs, conducted over 60 years apart, that provided flight training prior to formal pilot training below:
I believe one of the great lessons that I have learned from the study of Tuskegee Airmen was that they benefitted from President Roosevelt’s decision to fund the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). In 1938 President Roosevelt created the CPTP as part of the Civil Aeronautics Act that provided pilot training to 20,000 college students a year. CPTP provided 72 hours of ground school and 35-50 hours of flight instruction at facilities located near eleven colleges/universities. Most notably, the CPTP included Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). As CPTP participants, Tuskegee Institute, Hampton Institute, Virginia State University, and Howard University, helped open the doors for the first African-American military pilots.”
I think this one recommendation alone would significantly decrease the Air Force’s washout rate for minorities and non-minorities in undergraduate pilot training as well as help mitigate the socioeconomic disadvantages minorities have as they are not likely to be exposed in high school to flying training and the academics related to the fundamentals of flight which is a significant factor of the AF Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT) that plays a huge factor in pilot candidate selection.
It makes sense on a surface level that students who had flying instruction prior to SUPT would have greater success in SUPT. That’s just as true today as it was for the Tuskegee Airmen. Prior flying experience should directly correlate to greater success in SUPT. Increased flying experience for cadets will also have an impact on candidate scores on the pilot/navigator portions of the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT) and the Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM). Increased scores are important because AFOQT/PCSM scores are key factors in the selection of cadets for pilot training.
It also stands to reason that cadets who have been afforded opportunities to fly would return from the experience with increased levels of motivation. The increased levels of motivation would likely be expressed in their military and academic performance—both selection factors for SUPT. Finally, increased experience prior to pilot training will also make the student pilots more comfortable while in training at SUPT and better able to absorb instruction from the instructor pilot. In effect the student is able to learn more because the “firehose effect” has been lessened.
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