As technology continues to advance, Fort Rucker is staying ahead of the game when it comes to training Aviators.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Warrior Hall Jan. 10 to introduce a new CH-47F Chinook flight simulator, which will take the level of training Aviators receive on Fort Rucker to the next level, according to Kevin Hottell, Directorate of Simulations Flight School XXI simulations program manager.
“The first thing that’s happened is that the CH-47 Chinook has gone through a massive upgrade from the old [analog] gauges in the D model, to the full-glass cockpit in the F model,” he said. “[The new model] has multifunctional displays, computer screens and a computer system that runs behind the scenes and manages the actual flight – it’s a quantum leap in technology within the cockpit.”
To date, Aviators have been using sustainment trainers, known as tactical flight proficiency simulators, to conduct training on the F-model Chinooks, according to Hottell. The TFPSs have limited motion with limited visuals, unlike the new full-motion simulator unveiled at Warrior Hall.
The new simulator features a six-degrees of freedom motion system and 200-degree by 45-degree angles of visuals, according to the program manager.
“This is the first full-motion CH47F simulator in the world, and we have just accredited it for training,” said Col. Stephen S. Seitz, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence director of simulation. “This is a pretty significant addition to our training capabilities here at Fort Rucker, and we’re looking forward to getting students [into the simulators] to begin training.”
The new simulator comes with a bevy of benefits that range from cost avoidance to running scenarios that can’t be done in an actual CH-47 helicopter, according to the director. The average flight hour in a simulator costs about $430 compared to the almost $12,000 an hour it costs to operate and actual Chinook.
“Most importantly, it provides a good training device for our initial students. There are just some things you can do in a flight simulator that you couldn’t do in an actual aircraft — you can use it as a classroom for the students,” said Seitz.
The simulator allows instructors to change weather conditions, opposing force threat conditions and perform emergency procedures that would be too dangerous to perform in the aircraft itself.
The most noticeable feature of the new simulator is the all-glass cockpit and digital displays.
“Going from analog to digital really streamlines the cockpit and that’s the first thing you’ll notice,” said Hottell. “In a glass cockpit, the information and data is streamlined into a more informational format and decreases [the requirement for Aviators] to interpret what they are looking at.”
The displays are there to show important information to the pilot when he or she needs it, and they also serve as navigation systems.
“Now, pilots don’t have to have that paper map tucked behind their back because they have an imbedded global positioning system with a moving map,” said the program manager. “Layered on top of that, the flight control computer also has a digital automated flight control system, a full-on autopilot that can take a load off of the crew.”
“Another thing that [the simulator] can do is capture the flight and play back everything that happens,” added Seitz. “The instructor can pull up a student’s after-action review and use it to facilitate learning points.”
The simulators are not meant to replace live training, said Seitz, but meant to augment the training as a part of Fort Rucker’s core curriculum in flight training.
The CH-47F simulator is the first of three to join the fleet of simulators at Warrior Hall, and will round out Fort Rucker’s fleet of more than 50 simulators used to train Aviators on the installation.
“This is a unique service contract we have here at Warrior Hall and we just crossed over more than 500,000 flight training hours conducted at this facility,” said Seitz. “Flight School XXI simulations are an integral part of our flight training program and are a key component to providing future capabilities for our more advanced aircraft.”