Customer Story: How Delta Air Lines Revolutionized Employee Training with VR

Learn how Futurus and ArborXR save Delta Air Lines time and money with innovative VR training. VR training increases knowledge retention, muscle memory, and confidence.
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Delta Air Lines and Virtual Reality Training

Virtual reality training has quickly become an essential tool for employee development in the largest organizations in the world. Immersive learning through virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality provides new ways for workers to gain and reinforce critical skills.

Delta Air Lines is one major company at the forefront of enterprise VR training adoption by partnering with virtual reality solutions providers like Futurus and ArborXR.

Delta implemented deicing VR training for airplane technicians, saving the company a significant amount of money in training costs annually while making training drastically more efficient and effective.

Previously, only 3 technicians could complete this training per day. Now, with VR, 150+ technicians complete Delta’s training daily. Once a technician has completed their initial training, virtual reality proficiency checks are now treated as equivalent to live proficiency checks.

Challenges with Delta's Traditional Deicing Training

Deicing is an essential skill that keeps Delta Air Lines planes up and running during winter-time. Delta has over 1,500 deicing technicians globally who must complete training every year before winter hits.

The problem? Trainers and employees must travel to locations where bad weather is expected to get live “proficiency checks.” Proficiency checks occur annually after airplane technicians are certified. Delta requires airplane technicians to train continually to be prepared to service airplanes in bad weather and to keep Delta’s flights running smoothly.

Until recently, Delta could only conduct deicing training when the weather permitted using deicing fluid. This fluid can cost upward of $500 per foot sprayed onto a plane – making training expensive. On average, Delta could only provide 3-4 proficiency checks per day across all stations and often only in certain locations.

The Monumental Impact of VR Training

To find a better training solution for their airplane technicians, Delta explored virtual reality training with Futurus. Delta selected Futurus as its VR partner because of its flexibility, innovation, and commitment to Delta’s goals. Starting with a basic proof-of-concept focused on aircraft inspections, Delta quickly realized VR’s promising results and potential impact.

"Last winter [2022], about a month after we launched our deicing VR program, I got the data from Futurus that showed how many people had done a proficiency check that week — and I was shocked. I knew this would actually work, and we could go to phase two.”
Kevin Marcum
Program Manager VR/AR at Delta

Since then, Delta’s VR training program for deicing has had a monumental impact on skills development for their technicians and the company.

Virtual Training For Scalable & Immersive Learning

Delta’s key goals were to increase the availability of training, reduce costs, and provide realistic practice scenarios for airplane technicians.

Delta’s initial idea was a 360 video quiz experience, but Futurus pushed for a more immersive simulation. Futurus proposed the idea of not just providing a quiz experience, but providing an entire virtual reality simulation for airplane technicians to experience deicing.

"360 video is a passive experience. But VR is more interactive and engaging – what makes VR valuable is that you can fully experience a real-life scenario in a simulation.”
Elijah Claude
Lead XR Design Strategist at Futurus

The best custom software vendors building VR experiences are not just subject matter experts in VR; they also become subject matter experts in their clients’ content. For virtual reality to work at Delta, they needed a partner building the VR simulation who understood the full deicing process, and Delta’s particular standing operating procedure (SOP).

Developing Phase 1 for VR Training

Futurus adapted their VR training proposal to fit Delta’s precise needs rather than pushing a one-size-fits-all solution. They worked as a true partner – exploring emerging technology together with Delta’s team to provide the ideal training program.

In order to design a VR module that accomplished Delta’s goals, Futurus became very intimately involved with the training content. Futurus’ team performed extensive on-site visits, researched Delta’s manuals, and talked extensively with Delta’s internal subject matter experts at every iteration of VR training content.

The “alpha phase” started with a simple base experience: one plane type, one route, and one environment.

The initial feedback was extremely positive. The simulation has multiple quizzes throughout to test a user’s knowledge. Futurus had 30-40 of Delta’s trainers go through the training and provide key feedback to help make the simulation even more realistic.

"Trainees said that doing VR training after classroom lectures increased their confidence to deice before having to go through live training.”
Kevin Marcum
Program Manager VR/AR at Delta

In future phases of development, Futurus provided even more robust analytics.

To track learning, Futurus connected their VR modules to Delta’s learning management system (LMS). VR quizzes were based on Delta’s existing training questions but adapted for VR via multiple choice – an important design decision from Elijah’s team to help those less familiar with VR or new technology. Analytics also tracked Delta’s specific measurements for training outcomes, including total spray time, spray coverage, quiz attempts, and more.

Overcoming Challenges During Product Development with ArborXR

After the alpha phase was completed, Futurus began developing deicing training for other types of planes. Each app iteration requires dozens of Delta’s trainers, subject matter experts, and managers to review for accuracy.

"ArborXR helped us address key challenges in developing training for Delta. With ArborXR, we could easily and remotely distribute our VR modules to key stakeholders with every new app iteration. We use ArborXR at every step of development, user testing and deployment process.”
Elijah Claude
Lead XR Design Strategist at Futurus

Futurus used ArborXR during phase 1 of the VR training program, so that app development could be even more seamless. ArborXR’s device management platform helped them develop VR modules quickly so that they could:

Remote Distribution

Remotely distribute specific VR software versions to the right subject matter experts for review.

Testing & Development

Coordinate and launch software builds for testing vs full deployment.

Save Time

Keep headsets updated with the latest content while avoiding time-consuming manual software installs.

Control the Experience

Control the end-user experience with kiosk mode so employees aren’t overwhelmed by complex settings.

With ArborXR’s platform, utilizing release channels allows Futurus to share new iterations and designs with the right stakeholders. Release channels enable app sharing and app version control that you can set for different groups and stakeholders. App sharing on ArborXR allows you to send XR modules directly over Wifi to headsets, so your clients or end-users don’t have to update or load apps manually.

For Delta, this meant that trainers, managers, and stakeholders wouldn’t have to travel to Futurus’ offices to review new app modules. Instead, they could remotely give feedback and approval for designs. The close partnership between Futurus, ArborXR, and Delta was essential to the success of Delta’s VR training program by making it easy to develop, test, approve and launch VR training at scale.

The Future of Immersive Learning

Rolling out immersive VR training across a massive global organization like Delta does come with challenges. By combining Futurus’ VR expertise and ArborXR’s streamlined device management, Delta provides innovative VR training to over 1,500 technicians globally.

With Futurus’ VR training, employees report better knowledge retention and increased confidence. In addition, Delta Air Lines is saving valuable time and money by augmenting traditional training with virtual reality. This scalable immersive learning approach saves Delta a significant amount of operational costs while making training more efficient and effective.

"Our VR users aren’t tech experts, but ArborXR makes it easy for them to update, troubleshoot, and control the headsets.”
Kevin Marcum
Program Manager VR/AR at Delta

ArborXR allows Delta to track and troubleshoot headsets that are distributed across stations worldwide easily. The platform facilitates efficient collaboration between Delta’s training team and Futurus on iterating the custom VR modules. ArborXR even empowers Delta’s non-technical employees to manage the VR devices.

Delta’s success with virtual reality training for their airplane technicians highlights the immense potential of immersive reality training across many industries. With strategic partners like Futurus and ArborXR, companies can unlock similar benefits by deploying customized VR training programs at scale.

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