Developing the P1 Training Program

While many of our pilots have quickly excelled through our P1 program, sometimes in as little as an hour, the development of the program took almost 2 years to complete. There were a number of little snags along the way delaying the program. We’re thrilled that we endured and kept the completion of the VATSIM P1 program as our number 1 priority within the training department. As of writing this, 10 pilots (including some staff) successfully completed the program. 

Some of you may be asking what caused the delays and what were some of the obstacles we ran into while developing the program; fair question. To really get into that though, I should start off with some history of the goal of becoming an official VATSIM ATO and being able to certify our pilots with a VATSIM P1 rating. The initial goal started in the Winter of 2010. Shortly after the training department made a return to MetroAir’s organizational chart, in addition to providing mentorship to our pilots, the executive staff wanted to encourage our pilots to be better pilots and make the most use of VATSIM. Around the same time, VATSIM was in the initial stages of launching their P1 program and some various virtual airlines began offering the course to their pilots.

Initially, we bit off a little more than we could chew. One of the most important parts of the P1 program is all of the educational materials that are required. If you have taken the course, you (hopefully) have seen all of the guides that cover some of the basics ranging from VATSIM basics to navigation to decoding METARS. We started to model the course on the program offered by another virtual airline that had a well established training department complete with a ground school. Some of their P1 documentation included the basics of flight and all of the information you would be quizzed on if you were truly seeking to get your private pilot license from the FAA. Plain and simple, writing documentation can be challenging. While our training department know the basics, some had even already got their PPL in the real world, transposing those ideas to paper is hard. Trying to write it for an individual who is starting from scratch makes it even more difficult. For more than a year we were going down this path of endlessly writing documentation that ultimately wasn’t helping anyone. While our training staff felt that there was forward moving progress, the executives were starting to get impatient with no progress to really show for all of the time the training department staff had spent trying to get this program done.

Back in August of this year, the executive team decided to figure out what was happening and see if there was a better way to go about the P1 program at MetroAir. All 4 of us, Lindle, William, Matt Dissinger and myself, started to do research. We found the actual requirements to become an ATO and the additional listing of requirements of what the P1 program should cover. The execs, as we call ourselves, took on the challenge to work through the program, continue to do research to see how other VA’s were presenting their course and started to split out some of the documentation writing.

As soon as the execs started to take over the program we made it a point to have regular meetings to discuss our weekly progress. This was one of the most important keys to our success as we had made it a goal to complete our part of the program within a month. Each week we saw figured out what we had left to do, reviewed the VATSIM requirements to make sure nothing was falling by the wayside, and equally important, nothing superfluous was making its way into our program that we were designing. Some of the execs,Lindle, were procrastinators and waited to the final 1 month deadline to get their documentation written. After the documentation was written we had a little cleanup to do to ensure a consistent design between all of the training guides. We also finished up the writing of our written exam questions. With a special thank you to [Canadian Xpress](http://canadianxpress.ca/), we started to audit their program to see what they were doing. There were a few other VAs that we investigated but none came as close to the simplicity and “bang for your buck” as Canadian Xpress. [Side note: While we aren’t keen on talking about other VA’s, we’ll make an exception for these guys. They do have a lot to offer and if you’re looking for a change of pace, give them a try] After seeing how succinct their training materials were for the P1, the execs decided to split up the documentation that needed to be written. Once we finally put our stamp of  approval on the program, we contacted VATSIM to let them know we were ready. All ATOs are required to go through a voice audit with the VP of Pilot Training. We had a slight delay in scheduling that voice audit due to real life commitments but once finished we passed with flying colors. As soon as we were authorized to issue the P1 rating, the program was opened up to our staff members to let them have a trial run. Within a few days the staff had jumped at the chance to complete the program and we realized that almost all of the staff had finished the program or were in their final stages of getting the required flights completed for the practical. With such a quick turnout for staff, we rushed to get the final things in place for a public launch. While it felt like a long arduous process, all of us on staff are so happy that it is now complete. We’re even starting to look to see what the next training project will be!