Smarter Learning

‘Smart flight training’ doesn’t just mean glass cockpits and electric airplanes. With ‘Skynotes’, career educator and CFI Amy Labus-Olson is re-casting instruction as an up-to-date education service.

From the ground up

(© Courtesy of Flight Training Technologies)

There’s an old saw that says you’re not ready to fly until the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the aircraft.

Okay, so the rise of digital devices has made that problem redundant in a lot of cockpits, but the paperless pilot is far from a reality. And the problem starts in the sector that has always been easiest to overlook – flight training.

The trouble with training is that it’s hard to know what’s important and what isn’t. Plus, because you’re learning, you need a lot more documentation at your fingertips a lot more of the time.

(© Courtesy of Flight Training Technologies)

Skynotes, a new online app from Flight Training Technologies (FTT), is designed to do exactly that – keep all the essential records and resources at your fingertips, from any connected device.

The right experience

FTT Founder, CFI and educator Amy Labus-Olson. (Courtesy of Flight Training Technologies)

The solution has been a long time coming. FTT founder Amy Labus-Olson had been percolating the idea for years before she was sure she had the right format to start commissioning code.

Amy sees herself as an educator first and a pilot second. And she can prove it. She received a Master of Education-Professional Development degree in 2000 and immediately started professionally teaching English as a Second Language for college and university English language programs.

Always fascinated by flight, she started her pilot training in 2004 while teaching at St. Paul College in the Twin Cities and completed her certificate in 2006.

As an Education graduate and teacher, she fully expected the professionalism of aviation to be exemplified in the flight training environment. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case – especially when it came to managing progress.

“It didn’t make sense to me that something so costly and detailed was so unorganized,” she recalls.

“From my position as an educator, I wanted to see something similar to what students experience in other realms of higher education.”

And, right there, the idea behind Skynotes was born.

The Skynotes Lessons View allows instructors to create, schedule and plan lessons for their students, then provide evaluation and feedback afterwards. Students can check on and prepare for their lessons, and keep track of their flying and classroom time in their digital logbook. © Flight Training Technologies LLC)

Paperless progress

At work, Amy was already using a paperless grade book program to successfully manage her students. She wondered why something similar couldn’t be used for flight training.

So in 2008, now also qualified as a CFI, she began researching the idea of developing a web-based flight training information management system.

In 2015, with business plan in hand, Amy registered Flight Training Technologies, LLC and, in 2016, developed her online flight training information management app around the FAA’s Private Pilot ASEL course.

A Tasks window provides a quick snapshot of each student’s progress, with a statistical overview of individual syllabus tasks and cumulative stages, and whether progress has been graded satisfactory, unsatisfactory or incomplete. It’s also perfect when a new or senior instructor needs to review a student’s training. Click for a full-screen view. (© Flight Training Technologies LLC)

Accessible from any connected device, Skynotes is designed to be convenient, intuitive and efficient for Part 61 flight schools, independent CFIs and students alike.

According to Amy “Skynotes for the private pilot program is the template for all other programs that we develop for flight training information management.”

It provides a Training Calendar/Scheduler, Ground and Flight Curriculum with a lesson setup tool, FAR requirements and FAA endorsements checklist, maneuvers and procedures completion chart, flight training logbook with IACRA tracking and a CFI records logbook – plus an inbuilt aviation resource library and online ground school course.

Meeting FAR Part 61 is made easy with convenient access to a full list of the relevant requirements for the PPL ASEL course, click-to-read details for each requirement, and an online record of their completion. (© Flight Training Technologies LLC)

Skynotes is based on FARs Part 61 and the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS). The tasks or maneuvers/ procedures from the FARs and ACS are categorized into a three-stage flight training program. Plus Skynotes strives to adhere to FAR 61.51 pilot logbook entries and logging of training time.

FTT is hoping to implement a Part 141 flight school feature to address the flight training management needs of all its clients. Further, Amy is excited to begin development on an instrument program.

How much? Not much.

All that information, including each individual’s up-to-date training record, lives online.

Skynotes’ online Resources give students and instructors quick access to a wide range of regulatory, advisory and learning information – on the ground or in the air. The online library includes FAA Handbooks, FARs, ACs and learning resources. Schools and students can even add their own resources, from aircraft checklists to Ops Manuals and school/instructor documents. (© Flight Training Technologies LLC)

Using a secure login, students and instructors can always be prepared for their upcoming lessons, then easily share notes and achievements afterwards.

The FAA Endorsements screen lets CFIs keep track of each students’ endorsements, with a simple record-keeping system and handy reminders for recurring endorsements that are about to expire or need renewal. (© Flight Training Technologies LLC)

If an instructor leaves the flight school (for an airline job, say) a new CFI can easily catch up on the student’s entire record and continue their training as seamlessly as possible.

Or, if a student decides to switch training providers for some reason, their new school can access their complete training record just as easily (assuming they’re also Skynotes users).

So, you ask, how much? Well, not much. A Part 61 school pays $50 per month to offer their alumni Skynotes, while independent CFIs can use the platform for $69 per year. And students pay a once-only $35 fee for the full duration of their PPL ASEL course.

Along with its FAA Endorsements record, the Skynotes ‘CFI Records’ screen makes it easy for Instructors to comply with FAR 61.189, which mandates keeping a 3-year record of all endorsements they sign for knowledge and practical tests. (© Flight Training Technologies LLC)

After certification plus 30 days, students can maintain access to their training record and resources for just $1 per month or $12 per year, so they can continue logging time toward higher ratings.

In an industry that often seems to operate by trying to winkle every dollar out of every participant at every turn, that seems refreshingly fair.

Learn more

If you’d like to know more about Skynotes or even begin a 30-day free trial, visit Flight Training Technologies.

You’ll find lots more detail there, including a useful FAQ section and Blog. And if you still have a question, post it in the Comments below and hopefully Amy will be able to provide your answer.

You can also find out more about FTT and Skynotes on Facebook and LinkedIn @Skynotes, and Twitter @flighttrainingtech.

3 thoughts on “Smarter Learning

  1. This is absolutely fascinating! It is definitely an exciting step for student pilots and instructors alike. 😀 It is certainly something I need to look into for future use.

    As a side note, congratulations on the two bronze medals New Zealand won in the Olympics! Snowboarding and freestyle skiing are two of my favorite sports and I was really excited about the New Zealand milestone. 🙂 (Also, how could someone not be excited when Nico Porteous wins a medal!)

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