Assessing the Effectiveness of an Education and Training Module for General Aviation Pilots on the Use of NEXRAD-based Products in the Cockpit

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication/Presentation Date



Numerous studies over the years have documented the need to improve meteorological education and training for General Aviation (GA) pilots. With the advent of readily available aviation weather hazard products for real-time pilot use on the flight deck, there is now a lack of education and training on the proper interpretation and usage of these products. Data-linked NEXRAD is a good example of a currently available real-time product that is very popular in the GA community, but lacks a coherent understanding of its proper usage in pre-flight planning and in-flight operation.

Proper usage of NEXRAD in the cockpit should require a robust amount of education and training, yet very little material is currently available. An examination of Internet-based pilot discussion groups, meetings with industry officials at national meetings such as AMS and NBAA, and review of pertinent FAA guidance reveals a lack of credible radar knowledge in the community, and a shortage of instructional materials on proper usage and interpretation of NEXRAD, especially in-flight. Vendors who provide NEXRAD-based products to the cockpit do provide guidance on the operation of the technology, but little in the way of basic radar principles and proper usage of the radar information.

In this study, a NEXRAD-based education and training module has been developed for GA pilots using structured protocols based on Instructional Systems Design (ISD) techniques. The employment of ISD methodology enabled development of a detailed needs analysis, and learner and setting profiles based on the targeted group. These steps allowed for the construction of robust learning objectives and proper linkage of these objectives to module materials and assessment tools, the latter consisting of a combination of traditional knowledge- and scenario-based testing. The module contains material on weather radar and NEXRAD basics, NEXRAD product specifics and limitations, thunderstorm basics, and pilot decision-making principles. The introduction of thunderstorm basics in the module employed extensive examples from actual convective weather situations to convey relevant points, and provided the backdrop for the scenario-based testing. The effectiveness of the module was tested by delivering the module and assessing its effectiveness within a group of GA pilots, and comparing their knowledge scores between a pre- and post-module test with a second group of GA pilots who watched weather and aviation videos instead of receiving the training. Preliminary results from the testing show that the trained group improved significantly from the pre-test to the post-test on both radar knowledge and scenario based knowledge. Additionally, self-efficacy and reactions to the training were significantly higher for the trained group compared to the non-trained group. These results are very encouraging, as they suggest that a focused training program aimed at a specific audience can achieve significant results in educating and training pilots on proper interpretation and use of data-linked weather products. The results also show that using scenario-based questions for testing basic aviation meteorological knowledge is feasible. We recommend the FAA adapt this approach to update and revise the required aviation meteorological sections of basic knowledge tests and guidance such as Advisory Circulars on aviation meteorology and thunderstorms.


Los Angeles, CA