Training Aids For Oldest Planes Receive New Technology
With 19 years and more than 3,000 flying hours piloting the B-52
Stratofortress, Lt. Col. Tom Silvia is the right person to ensure
the bomber's simulator is realistic as overhauls are completed to
bring it up to date.
Realism was lacking previously in the simulators, the colonel
said. The view of the virtual world was constrained to two screens
that broadcasted an analog signal. Now, there are six screens that
display a digital 180-degree view.
The colonel is the Det. 3, 29th Test Systems Squadron commander.
He is charged with overhauling two B-52 simulators at Louisiana's
Barksdale Air Force Base, and one at Minot AFB in North Dakota. The
colonel makes sure all changes made to the simulators do not ruin
the accuracy and experience of the virtual flights.
"It is now the same view that we have from the airplane," Silvia
said. "My first thought when I first sat in the revamped simulator
was that this is so much better."
The previous low-definition view caused training problems,
especially in recreating an air refueling mission, he said.
Training on the complicated maneuvers can now be done in the
simulator. The simulator now runs more efficiently, said Jeff
Burgdorf, the Air Combat Command B-52 Program test director.
Burgdorf has worked on the simulator since 1978. He is excited
to see all the changes being made, he said.
The older software and hardware made it harder to fix the
simulator and was less flexible to changes. The software was
designed with an ancient program language that made hiring new
technicians difficult. The simulator also had numerous hardware
parts that are not being produced anymore, he said.
"We had to upgrade the system and get rid of the unsupportable
parts in order to keep the simulator running," Mr. Burgdorf said.
"It is like we went from Pong video game systems to the newer
gaming consoles of today."
The upgrades are vital in supporting the aircrew training
mission here, said Capt. Joey Libro, the Aircrew Training Devices
All B-52 aircrews are trained at the base. An actual flying hour
in the B-52 costs approximately $16,000. An hour in the simulator
is a bargain at $400.
"Gas prices being what they are have caused us to see a
reduction in our flying hours," Captain Libro said.
For students to take the simulator flights seriously, the ride
has to be realistic, the captain said.
The simulator is also used to train experienced aircrew. In
addition to honing their skills they can train on new equipment.
Part of the overhaul has included adding the LITENING targeting
The captain estimates it would take about 20 hours to train an
aircrew member on the use of the pod, which gives the weapons
officer a state-of-the-art targeting interface for numerous
munitions on the bomber. With flying hours at a premium, it helps
to have the simulator as a training avenue, he said.
Another advantage of the improved simulator is the ability to
safely recreate emergency situations that are too risky to do in an
"Here on the ground a mistake only costs me pride points," he
said. "The air is not as forgiving of mistakes. A mistake in the
simulator can be retrained while a mistake in the air can cause the
loss of life."
(Aero-News thanks Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee, Air Force News