Story by 1LT Pawel Puczko on 06/25/2019Marine Aviation Training Support Group (MATSG) 22 has been enhancing its MATSG-22 University (22-U) program, which prepares student pilots for Primary Flight Training before they even begin the training pipeline.
The flight-training syllabus is extremely challenging, and is physically and mentally demanding. Student pilots go through Initial Flight Screening (IFS) and Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API) in Florida before they spend any time in their Primary Flight Training aircraft, the T-6B Texan II. Due to limited class sizes and instructor availability, students are not always able to begin Primary immediately after they finish API. Marine Col. Carlton Hasle, prior commanding officer of MATSG-22, created 22-U to best utilize the time that Marines aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi have while waiting to start Primary Flight Training.
The original purpose of 22-U was to provide Marine flight students with a basic knowledge and foundation for the T-6B Texan II, the Primary Flight Training aircraft. The program also kept those Marines in a flight-training mindset, providing material to review and removing the gap in training.
"We would come in every morning and review material," said 1st Lt. Josh Weeden, a student instructor for 22-U. "It started with very basic reviews and the hopes that the students doing 22-U would retain the information and not have to worry about starting Primary Flight training completely blind."
The majority of the 22-U program was guided by Marines further in the flight-training pipeline and who had already completed Primary Flight Training. Students were expected to have a very basic understanding of the T-6B aircraft's systems and memorize the emergency procedures, which is expected of them at the beginning of simulator flights in Primary Flight Training.
In June of 2018 Col. Bret Ritterby took over command of MATSG-22 and showed an immediate interest in the potential behind the 22-U program. Through his guidance, the 22-U program developed a four-week guided syllabus, a supplemental precursor to Primary. Several changes were put into place to expand the 22-U program to allow maximum participation and information prior to the start of actual training.
"Since I have been here, we have opened up the 22-U program to the Navy side allowing our brothers and sisters to take advantage as well," said Ritterby. "We have also made an effort to increase participation from instructor pilots in the squadrons. This helps take the information reviewed out of the books and into the context of what to actually expect through the eyes of an instructor pilot."
The current 22-U syllabus reviews all the aircraft systems, which are introduced by an instructor pilot and expanded upon by other students. It ensures students understand and memorize all the emergency procedures as well as limitations of the aircraft. Student instructors cover the Naval Air Training and Operations Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) Brief, which students need to have memorized prior to their first flight. They also schedule a time for the students to visit a static T-6B trainer, receive a demonstration of a full preflight inspection on an actual T-6B, and visit NAS Corpus Christi's air traffic control tower.
The most recent changes to the program have been the ability for Navy student pilots from Training Air Wing (TW) 4 to be able to take the 22-U class. Over the last few months the number of Marines waiting to start Primary Flight Training has decreased, which has allowed Navy students to join the classes while 22-U instructors are able to maintain the same class sizes.
The final step before any student can officially complete the 22-U program is a course critique. Students answer a series of questions to help leadership at MATSG-22 see the results of the 22-U program. Two of the questions on that course critique have played a major role in the success of the course. The questions ask what other information would be helpful and what students would change about the course.
Students' inputs have allowed MATSG-22 to shape the course over time and continues to drive its development.
"A big asset to training would be to have access to the simulators, getting students hands-on experience, and develop muscle memory for the foundation which they are developing here," said Executive Officer of MATSG-22 Lt. Col. Michael Saddler. "The instructors of 22-U are doing a phenomenal job at introducing the syllabus, but more time around the aircraft, demonstrational videos, and audio recordings of airborne communications would be the next step to enhance their training."
The results of the course critiques were overwhelmingly positive. It is clear the individuals taking the course have benefited from 22-U and have at least begun training with a better understanding and foundation to build upon. This all translates into student pilots being able to retain more information earlier in their training, which could lead to safer flights and students being able to complete the Primary phase of flight training faster.
Through the work of the students in the course, the student instructors, instructor pilots, and MATSG-22, the 22-U program has grown to be an invaluable asset setting up the Marine and Navy student pilots for success in flight training and in their careers. This relatively new program is still evolving and everyone involved is working diligently to maximize the potential of the syllabus.
"Currently 22-U is aimed at students waiting to start Primary Flight Training in the T-6," said Ritterby. "The future goals of 22-U would be to eventually create a syllabus to expand it to individuals who may be waiting to start Advanced Flight Training here. We would want to be able to provide that same leg up for anyone going to the Advanced Strike or Multi-Engine Pipeline if they had the time without interrupting their start dates. That is the next logical phase for what 22-U should become."