How Integration of Single-Pilot Operations Impacts Aviation Education at a Major Aeronautical University: An Embedded Single Case Study

Jorge Luis Diaz Albelo

Document Type Article


The purpose of this qualitative embedded case study was to understand faculty, instructor pilot, and student descriptions of the impact of single-pilot operations (SPO) integration in higher education aviation education. The theories framing this study are the social cognitive career theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The central research question was: What are faculty, instructor pilot, and student descriptions of SPO integration in aviation education at Paper Plane University (PPU)? Sub-questions have been devised to discover more detailed descriptions of the specific ways SPO integration impacts curriculum, andragogy, and the learning experience. Purposive sampling was used to select 16 participants from a major aeronautical university in the southeastern United States. Data were collected from five faculty individual interviews, a single focus group interview comprised of six flight instructors, and five student narratives. An embedded case study analysis approach was used, as defined by Yin. The data were analyzed using a reflective journal, bracketing and coding strategies, arranged in chronological order, and organized to a visual display. The three major themes that emerged from the data were: Technology Overreliance, Emotional Push-back, and lack of Operational Acceptance. Findings indicate that the high reliance and use of automation as a result of SPO will take a toll in individuals’ self-efficacy. Particularly, higher education leaders should pay close attention to how research and innovation in aviation technology advances cannot only improve the learning experience in the classroom, but also shatter an industry that has been built to promote safety.