Virtual Jet Centre
Captain Andy Wilkins, an experienced pilot with over 20 years flying commercially, is working with the University of Exeter to roll out a team management programme based on aviation techniques or aerotraining.
The Virtual Jet Centre (VJC) is an aircraft simulator centre based in Chudleigh, Devon. The centre offers a unique experience of flying a Boeing 737 – 800 aircraft simulator providing the opportunity for professional pilots, and novices, to fly a modern jet and feel what it is like to sit in the pilot's seat. However, the centre offers much more than an opportunity to improve piloting skills or experience a fun day out.
VJC offers an experience of how rigid systems help to reduce human error within high performance working culture. Airlines have found that having systems, and processes, in place that highlight potential errors due to human factors can save lives. Dr Sam Vine, from Sport and Health Sciences at the University, is currently working on a research project entitled ‘Human Factors in Aviation’ sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Sam examines the processes through which anxiety hinders (or helps) performance and is working with the VJC and Flybe to research pilot training techniques.
Andy promotes a similar model that can work in many different contexts and working environments – from building contractors to solicitors.
The HR department at the University is currently working with Andy to develop a management training programme for its employees. Andy hopes that this will be the beginning of a long-standing collaboration enabling unique training packages to be created and managed by the Virtual Jet Centre in partnership with the University.
Andy said: “In association with the University of Exeter, we have set up a world beating system for helping companies recruit the right person for the job using a unique tool, our Boeing flight simulator. At VJC, the staff have many years of combined experience in human factors training within the airline industry. Such training has proven thoroughly influential in the health industries and we are converting this success so it can be relevant to any business.”
Immersing a team in the task of piloting a jet offers people the chance to view their own setting from a different perspective and access how errors within their own systems can be emphasised and eliminated. For example: surgeons are now implementing checklists during operations and finding these step-by-step guides have helped to reduce death rates in patients.
By taking professionals out of their typical working environment, away from their comfort zone into the world of jet piloting they are able to develop their own key skills and apply ‘aerotraining’ to their work setting. The jet pilot relies on his, or her, management team to safely and expertly fly a plane, thinking ahead and showing awareness of the forthcoming chain of events.
The Virtual Jet Centre and the University of Exeter are continuing to work in collaboration on a number of training and stress testing packages for HR and recruitment specialists nationwide.