I’ll admit I missed this May 2020 memo from the FAA.
“With the assistance of aviation community members of the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) Airman Certification Standards (ACS) Working Group (WG), the FAA is reviewing and revising a number of its reference handbooks.”
Among the books being revised, the Aviation Instructor Handbook (FAA-H-8083-9B), effective with the May 2020 release will, among other things, replace “Student” with “Learner” and replace “Cockpit” with “Flight deck” throughout the handbook.
What? Why? Who?
Well, let’s back up, shall we. As language — and what we call people and things — has become a more common topic of conversation, I pulled up the Merriam-Webster dictionary website.
Student is defined as “one who attends a school” or “one who studies: an attentive or systemic observer.” And Learner, when defined as the verb learn, means “to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill by study, instruction, or experience,” and “to come to be able,” or “to come to realize.”
When looking specifically at the definition, I can see why learner is replacing student. Even if it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily.
A story on the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association website, the genesis of this column, (thanks to AOPA’s Jennifer Non for bringing it to my attention), says: “As for the rationale: “The change from student to learner started several years ago in an industry working group,” Chris Cooper, AOPA director of regulatory affairs, said. “Industry wanted to get away from using the word ‘student’ because traditionally we think of student as in ‘student pilot’ or a beginning student pilot/mechanic.”
And replace student with… what?
From the same story: “Within the industry group the air-carrier people wanted to use ‘pilot-in-training’ and the general aviation people wanted ‘learner.’ After about two years of discussion, the FAA decided on ‘learner’ with the thought that at different times we are all learners.”
We can’t say we never won one from airline folks.
From my perspective, the term “flight deck” is an easier term to get my head around. Words are often borrowed and “cockpit” has a nautical (as in sea), not aeronautical (as in sky), origin.
Again, from the AOPA story: “Replacing ‘cockpit,’ a term of nautical origin, with ‘flight deck’ was an imperative for the airlines where the term is already common place — and obviously more reflective of that flight environment than, say, for a primary training airplane or a biplane with its driver’s seat exposed to the elements.”
I can go along with that. But it may take me some time to commit that change to memory.
And what the about the who of these changes…
The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) Airman Certification Standards (ACS) Working Group (WG) is made up of people, of course, representing myriad institutions and organizations.
The ARAC, from which the ACSWG is comprised, includes (in no particular order): The Cargo Airline Association (CAA), Airline Dispatchers Federation (ADF), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), National Organization to Insure a Sound Controlled Environment (NOISE), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), National Air Disaster Alliance Foundation (NADAF), Aerospace & Defense Industries Association of Europe (ASD), Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), FlyersRights.org, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Aeronautic Repair Station Association (ARSA), Helicopter Association International (HAI), Airlines for America (A4A), Pratt & Whitey, National Air Carrier Association (NACA), Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), Coalition of Airplane Pilots Association (CAPA), American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), Aviation Capital Group, Regional Airline Association (RAA), Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA).
I even recognized most of those acronyms.
So, whether you happen to agree, or vehemently disagree, with the aforementioned changes coming to a favored reference handbook near you, know that those changes were years in the making and discussed by people, just like you.
And just like you, they are informed by the many hats they wear. As a person (first and foremost), but also by their professions, employers, and interests. And I appreciate the time, energy, and thought they put into this process. Words matter.
In reading up on the various aspects of this topic, I “learned” a great deal while writing this column.
And while I found the journey interesting, I’m not yet sure how directly useful that knowledge will be on the “flight deck” of the Cub I sometime fly.