Guided Independent Flight Training, or GIFT, is Redbird Flight’s in-simulator teaching tool for private pilot students. Each of GIFT’s 33 modules contain preflight materials such as written and video instruction to introduce students to the lesson and objectives for each flight. During each flight, real time audio coaching and instruction is provided based on the student’s performance moment-by-moment. Some flights also include visual aids to assist students with learning maneuvers. After their flights, students will receive a score based on ACS standards. These scores are saved to the student’s GIFT account and accessible online for review.
Real-time verbal coaching is provided throughout GIFT. In the first few modules, when the student is learning basic maneuvers, the student can expect to receive coaching for relatively minor deviations. However, beyond the first several GIFT modules it is assumed the student has mastered basic maneuvers including straight and level flight, turns, climbs, and descents. Therefore, the type of real-time coaching provided in GIFT changes after the first few modules, becoming more maneuver-specific. While deviations involving basic skills aren’t necessarily coached in the more advanced modules, such deviations will result in low scores.
For example, when a student undertakes a basic module such as Straight and Level – Trim, they can expect to receive verbal coaching if they deviate more than +/- 200 feet from their assigned altitude. However, when students fly the more advanced Traffic Pattern module, the student can deviate far from their assigned altitude without hearing any corrective coaching. Their score, however, will reflect a poorly-performed maneuver.
Each GIFT module contains safety checks intended to discourage extreme maneuvers by the student. While it is enjoyable to perform aerobatics in the safety of a simulator, such maneuvers should be reserved for non-GIFT flight modes, such as Free Flight. The following operating parameters are in effect during all GIFT missions, with some exceptions:
If the airplane performs an extreme maneuver, it is usually repositioned back to the beginning of the module. When it makes sense, certain elements of this safety protocol are automatically turned off. For example, it wouldn’t be appropriate for the Ground Proximity safety check to be in effect during a landing module, but the other elements will still be functioning.
Scoring is provided for all GIFT modules except the Intro Flight. Scoring criteria are based on ACS standards in all modules as applicable. The ACS provides exact parameters for how many maneuvers are to be performed, but is more ambiguous for some. Throughout GIFT, judgement-based coaching and scoring criteria are used in cases where the ACS provides non-specific scoring guidance.
For example, the ACS is very clear regarding steep turns. A steep turn requires the student to complete a 360° turn in a 45° bank while maintaining altitude and airspeed within specific tolerances. The GIFT module for steep turns scores students exactly in accordance with these parameters.
For taxiing, however, the ACS does not provide measurable numbers, but rather language that requires an instructor or DME to “eyeball” whether or not a student is taxiing safely. For such cases, GIFT has been programmed with common sense judgement and plenty of coaching.
While there is no exact taxi speed limit according to the ACS, GIFT is programmed to provide progressive coaching as needed if the student exceeds a groundspeed of 20kt. This speed was decided upon after ample testing by staff pilots and CFIs based on their best judgement, the selected airport, and prevailing conditions within the taxiing module. A student’s score is adversely affected only if they continue to exceed 20kt after several instructive prompts. Other common sense scoring criteria are also used, such as significant deviation from the taxiway centerline, making a wrong turn, or departing the taxiway onto the grass.
Similar common sense scoring is provided in all GIFT modules where the ACS does not provide specific, measurable numbers for scoring.
GIFT flights rely on real-time measurement of several aircraft conditions such as altitude, airspeed, and orientation to detect when a student has completed a particular maneuver or section of a flight. Most of the post-solo GIFT modules require precise flying in order to smoothly proceed through the entire flight. Failure to follow the audio flight instructions carefully during a GIFT flight may result in a “stalled” lesson in which audio coaching and scoring cease. In this case, you will need to manually end and restart the flight.