Pilot Edge program reinforces air traffic communication for new pilots

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kailee Reynolds
  • 47th Flying Training Wing

It takes more than just an instructor pilot to train student pilots to become the U.S. Air Force’s best. Members of the new Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5 program understand the importance of the countless individuals who work together to support their success, including the Airmen at Laughlin AFB’s air traffic control unit.


A new program at Laughlin, Pilot Edge, provides students with the chance to practice procedures with ATC members before they even step into an aircraft.


“The Pilot Edge program is meant to promote comfortability,” said Senior Airman Daenon Davy, 47th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller. “These student pilots are going hundreds of miles an hour, trying to talk to us at the same time they are controlling a plane. It gives them the ability to know what to expect when it’s time to actually hop into the airframe and take off.”


UPT 2.5 is the first syllabus at Laughlin AFB to incorporate live air traffic control early in order to help student pilots adapt to radio calls and ATC phraseology while flying in a simulator.


“Students of today will be able to expedite [key skills] and do more valuable training in the aircraft,” said Maj. Trevor Johnson, 47th Operations Group lead instructor pilot for the UPT 2.5 syllabus. “The goal is a reimagined training system to provide the quality of graduates needed to deter and, if necessary, win against near-peer adversaries in dynamic and contested environments.


“This is ultimately about quality training all around,” Johnson continued. “The inclusion of military and civilian air traffic control personnel early in training will improve the realism for student pilots.”


Effective, time-efficient training, communication and safety are key factors in producing combat-ready Airmen, and the Pilot Edge program seeks to enhance those aspects.


“A lot of the time, a new pilot will stutter or freeze up once they are establishing communication with us in flight because they don't have the experience,” said Davy. “ATC is trying to ensure safety, so establishing good communications procedures is fundamental to our job”


To produce sound communication between student pilots and air traffic controllers, the Pilot Edge program provides an earlier opportunity to learn this critical skill.

Each practiced interaction provides insight and experience for both parties. This program gives new ATC members a chance to train as well.


“It’s beneficial for our [newer air traffic controllers] because, just like student pilots, they are learning the procedures step-by-step and learning how to communicate properly too,” said Davy. “It gives them time to learn and hammer out those mistakes.”


Each simulated interaction provides students with experience and confidence, resulting in a more focused and successful flight each time. Instead of trying to figure out the proper communication procedures mid-flight, pilots can focus on learning the aircraft with fewer distractions.