A New Approach to Flight Simulation
In these trainers, we were able to learn instrument procedures, practice “switchology”, accomplish checklist items and get a good workout in emergency procedures. What we could not do was do what we did in the airplane. An intercept was “procedures only”. Since we couldn’t see the ground, we could not practice air-to-ground gunnery; and since we couldn’t see another airplane, air-to-air training was non-existent, except for conditions simulating night/weather.
My first experience in a real flight simulator was in the KC-10, with similar experiences in the B-2 and C-17. These simulators, like those used by the airlines, were actually like the airplanes they simulated. Some might be surprised to learn that when USAF pilots learn to fly a large plane, they learn almost exclusively in the flight simulator; then get one or two rides in the real plane, followed by their check ride. What a savings in flying dollars, airframe life and overall wear and tear on the aircraft. By contrast, simulators only play an adjunct role in fighter pilot training and most training is done in the aircraft. Why the difference?
Until very recently, introducing motion into flight simulators was counterproductive. It’s well known that no motion is better than bad motion. It’s unrealistic and only serves to detract from the training environment, which is why motion in flight simulators was forgone for greatly improved visuals and eventually linking in a DMO environment. However, recent breakthroughs in centrifuge technology have finally allowed for the right motion, with high fidelity, to be available today in a high performance motion system. Today’s realistic motion is superior to all previous concepts and has afforded an opportunity to inject
realism into tactical flight simulation. So what’s the problem? It’s that the centrifuge has been the pilot’s enemy since the early 1990’s. The USAF was losing so many planes to G induced loss of consciousness (GLOC) that it mandated all pilots flying fighters go to Holloman AFB, NM for “G Awareness Training”. The problem was that if you didn’t pass this training, you had a great opportunity to lose your wings, or at the least your fighter aircraft assignment. The program wasn’t designed to be punitive, but pilots soon learned that a bad experience at Holloman could have lasting, adverse effects on one’s career. Most pilots would much rather have had a tooth pulled without Novocain than take a spin in a centrifuge.
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