Pilot Training Moving At The Speed Of Innovation
by U.S. Air Force John Ingle, 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
May 22, 2019
The 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas
is moving at the speed of innovation, and is bound to only get
faster as visionaries incorporate the latest in mixed realities to
boost undergraduate pilot training.
Lt. Col. Jason Turner,
80th FTW director of Strategic Initiatives, said the implementation
of virtual and augmented realities is creating a portfolio of tools
that allows instructor and student pilots alike to enhance the
learning experience within the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training
program, the world’s only internationally manned and operated combat
pilot training program.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets Preston Tower, left, Alexander Knapp and Ian Palmer fly three T-38C Talons in formation in a mixed reality environment during a flying training session with the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Feb. 1, 2019. The 80th FTW has been installing and fine tuning virtual and mixed reality training platforms in their Innovation Lab, which allows Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program students to further practice their skills outside of an actual aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)
Through the use of 360-degree cameras, skilled pilots and actual
images from flights over North Texas and Southern Oklahoma, the
program is able to build instructional content to train students on
items such as local aerial procedures and ground operations.
In short, it’s creating a realistic flying environment in a
controlled setting that enables students to learn and make mistakes
in a safe setting.
“The solution essentially gives them the ability to visualize
some of the things that they’ll experience airborne so that once
they do get airborne, they’re able to take those reference pictures
that they saw in mixed reality and apply them to their training in
the air, hopefully making their air time training more valuable,” he
Maj. Steve Briones, the 80th FTW’s director of Wing
Innovation, has played an integral role in leading the innovative
charge to marry traditional simulator training and real flight time
with fast-advancing technologies such as virtual and augmented
realities. He said it has taken about six months to go from concept
to two functional “Innovation Labs” available to ENJJPT instructors
Virtual reality creates an experience where a
person is immersed in a virtual world, whereas an augmented reality
incorporates digital elements to a live view of an environment. AR
technology played a prominent role in the Pokemon Go phenomenon.
“It’s the future of learning in the Air Force,” Briones said.
“It’s just being able to take different methods of delivering
content or just making the learning content accessible in different
Briones said the innovative training tools will not
replace traditional simulators as they provide a physical, hands-on
platform to practice instrument familiarity and emergency
procedures. However, the newest set up does allow for visuals that
can’t be replicated in a simulator such as formation flying because
they are able to link individual training stations.
technology brings pilot training methodologies together in a new and
adaptive way, he said, that is a cloud-based and student-focused in
such a way that Airmen in the ENJJPT program can access courseware
wherever they are and whenever they want to.
“If you asked
folks six months ago when we were just thinking about this if this
was possible, they would’ve been like, ‘No way. There’s no way,’” he
said. “So, I think it allows us to think critically about how we’re
training and how we can make ourselves better.”
Lt. Col. Jason Turner, right, 80th Flying Training Wing director of Strategic Initiatives, helps Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadet Ian Palmer guide a T-38C Talon through a mixed reality environment during a training session at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Feb. 1, 2019. The 80th FTW has been installing and fine tuning virtual and mixed reality training platforms in their Innovation Lab, which allows Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program students to further practice their skills outside of an actual aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)
A group of
Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology were in the 10-station lab February 1, 2019
trying out the technology as part of a visit to the 80th FTW. Turner
said the trio taking a virtual flight had spent about 30 minutes on
the mixed reality trainers, but they were already showing a skill
ENJJPT students learn over the course of the 55-week program:
“They’re still learning. They’re still
developing,” he said of the potential for student pilots as seen by
the MIT students. “But this also gives them a place to practice
where mistakes don’t cost them their safety.”
There is, admittedly,
some hesitancy with the new technology as there is very little
performance data in the program at this time to fall back on. Turner
said part of that is because the technology has not been
specifically introduced into the ENJJPT syllabus.
they’ve done, he said, is encourage students to try out the
equipment to change their mindset in regards to effectiveness of the
training and the sense of reality it brings. What they’ve seen is
when one student sees the capabilities, they bring others to the
experience, who in turn bring more.
The ENJJPT Class
20-04 started a small-group trial at the end of February 2019, which
included deliberately implementing these technologies into their
training. They will also soon have the ability to toggle between
T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon training modules.
virtual reality or mixed reality won’t replace actual flight time,
it’s intended to augment it to make that time more valuable,” he
said. “That’s when students will officially be coming here as part
of their training experience.”
Turner and Briones both lauded
the public-private partnership with industry leaders to create a
training environment that compliments existing platforms. The
technology, they said, is exceeding expectations and they are seeing
how it will continue to enhance the ENJJPT training curriculum.
Note: Minor editing by USA Patriotism! without impacting