Support: iPods As Aircraft Simulators


July 11, 2009: With the cost of jet fuel expected to keep going up, air forces are looking for ways to reduce air time. The U.S. Air Force has, like many others, turned to simulators. For example, the cost to use a full motion (a simulator that moves the cockpit to mimic in-flight movement) aircraft simulator is about 15 percent of what it costs to train in the air. While the simulators often cost half as much as the aircraft itself, they burn much less fuel (in the form of electricity to power the displays, instruments and hydraulics). The air force has also found that for some kinds of cockpit training, like flight checks, a flight school saves a lot of money by just using a cockpit mockup, without the visual displays (outside the cockpit) or the hydraulics. This means there's more time for the flight simulators to be used for flying missions.

Savings can be considerable, without losing any training. For example, air force C-130 transport student pilots had their flight time hours reduced from 32 to 23 hours, while simulator flight hours went from 101 to 149 hours. There was no noticeable decline in the skill of the students after they graduated. Actually, more simulator hours are valuable, because there you can teach how to handle emergency situations that are too dangerous to practice in an actual aircraft.

The air force has also developed training software for the iPod Touch (the one that looks like an iPhone.) The software enables the loadmaster students to look at, and have identified, everything in the cargo bay of the C-130 (which is what the loadmaster is in charge of.) The young students grew up with this kind of hand-held technology, and will use it on their own time. The air force is also loading iPods up with technical manuals, for performing maintenance and some repairs. This new technology also makes it possible to quickly train loadmasters for the new C-130J, which eliminates the navigator and flight engineer jobs, and automates most of those two jobs, but also gives more responsibilities to the two pilots and the loadmaster. Putting those additional chores in an iPod Touch makes it all easier to learn, and remember (by taking the iPod with you after school).



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