Simulator strain eased

Instructor Engineer Mark Franke, in right seat, instructs 2nd Lt. John Karlesky, student pilot in the left seat and Staff Sgt. Kris Parson, a student engineer. The students are attending the Eastern Regional Flight Simulator here and the flight training device is a new tool to train C-130 crews.

Instructor Engineer Mark Franke, in right seat, instructs 2nd Lt. John Karlesky, student pilot in the left seat and Staff Sgt. Kris Parson, a student engineer. The students are attending the Eastern Regional Flight Simulator here and the flight training device is a new tool to train C-130 crews.

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- The staff at the Eastern Regional Flight Simulator here recently received a flight training device -- a new tool which may help ease the congested schedule at the busy schoolhouse.

"We now have the potential to train twice as many students," said Lt. Col. Kevin Gootee, chief of training at the 94th Operations Support Squadron.

The schoolhouse building and courseware were designed for multiple C-130 training systems, but until the advent of the new FTD, students were completing all their simulator training on the more advanced weapons system trainer. Since this is the only C-130 H2 schoolhouse in the guard and reserve, that made for a packed schedule, with some refresher training being waived due to the constraints, Colonel Gootee said.

"Now that we're moving half of the weapons systems trainer schedule over to the flight training device, Air Force Reserve Command and National Guard crews will be able to conduct more of the required annual refresher training, reducing the amount of training shortfalls we've had in the past," said Lt. Col. Michael Matthews, 94th Operations Support Squadron operations officer and 94th Operations Group flight training unit registrar.

The FTD, a non-moving, no visibility, C-130 H2-model flight training device, came online after years of hard work by a team of Air Force members and contractors here and at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Students sit in a cockpit housed in a sterile white box. Cables snake in and out of it while the simulator's brain -- two large computer towers -- hums serenely, sending flight data into the pilots and receiving their reactions.

"With a no visibility or high altitude situation, you're looking at gauges and responding by interpreting the data they give you. That can be done perfectly in this FTD," Colonel Gootee said.

Ideally, students will be introduced to a concept in a panel-and-instrument-heavy session in the FTD and then move up to reinforce those concepts in the full-motion, full-visibility simulator, or weapons system trainer.

Theoretically one class could complete the WST portion of the class while another started on the FTD, at the very least, students will be able to perform tasks such as preflight checklists, approaches and instrument-only flying in the FTD, freeing valuable time for other students in the more advanced WST, said Colonel Gootee.

The simulator arrived here four years ago as an H3 model C-130 simulator and it wasn't certified for the type of training needed at the schoolhouse. To meet those needs, the device was sent to Texas for an overhaul. It was converted from the more high-tech H3 model to an H2 model, which required all the panels and instruments to be swapped out and the software to be modified.

Now that all the work has been done and the tests are completed, students are receiving valuable training in the simulator; important because the Air Force is moving away from training missions in actual aircraft and more towards simulator training, Colonel Gootee said.

"As a pilot, you believe it. It's virtual, but it moves so perfectly with what you are doing that you get caught up in it," Colonel Gootee said. "It is safer and more cost-effective to train in a simulator. We can simulate fires, loss of engines and other emergencies very realistically without putting the crew in danger."