#37 Ryan Riley: Pilot training innovation in USAF and airlines
The Vertical SpaceMarch 28, 2023
01:10:0948.21 MB

#37 Ryan Riley: Pilot training innovation in USAF and airlines

Today’s topic is the exciting world of pilot training innovation, an area that has become a high priority to militaries and airlines around the world given the pilot shortage that the industry is grappling with. Helping us examine this topic is Ryan Riley, a retired USAF F-16 fighter pilot who most recently led Pilot Training Next, an initiative that leveraged advanced training technologies and learning methods to cut the USAF pilot training in half. Ryan also currently happens to be going through training with a major U.S. airline which we also discuss in our conversation.

The USAF is short approximately 2,000 pilots, which is about a third more than its annual theoretical capacity to produce pilots. At the same time, major airlines are accelerating their pilot hiring and are signaling concern about insufficient pilot supply. This has sparked a wave of flight training innovation to solve two major pain points: training time and throughput. 

Ryan walked us through the current Air Force pilot training pipeline, what prompted urgency to revisit the decade old training formula, what innovations the Air Force experimented with, and what the outcomes were. We talked about the pros and cons of mixed reality and synthetic training, and the importance of student-centric and distributed learning in both military and civil training environments.

Naturally, we also discussed the controversial topic of the 1,500 hour rule, the related hours versus competencies dilemma, single pilot operations, and then extrapolated the discussion to autonomous systems, and how novel concepts in flight training might help the industry think through building trust in autonomous wingmen or virtual copilots. 

And to stay true to our roots, Ryan highlights what remaining pain points exist for innovators to go and solve.

Ryan recently retired from the USAF where he flew F-16s, both operationally as a fighter pilot with multiple combat deployments as well as a Thunderbird pilot. In addition to flying, Ryan’s career included a number of leadership roles including deputy division chief 19th Air Force, Chief of Offense at the 613 Air Operations Center, contingency and crisis action planner, Pacific Air Forces lead technology integrator, and most recently Detachment 24 Commander leading Pilot Training Next. 


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