GLENVILLE — The 109th Airlift Wing is getting a full-motion flight simulator that will allow aircrews to practice Arctic flight operations in Glenville rather than Greenland.
This is a major upgrade to the unit’s training capabilities, and will make Stratton Air National Guard Base a destination for aircrews flying the four-engine C-130 cargo plane.
Its benefit will extend to the community, Wing Commander Col. Christian Sander said, with a small increase in base manpower and increased bookings at area hotels.
More importantly, he said, it will expand training opportunities for pilots, navigators and flight engineers of the 109th, which is the only unit in the world to fly the LC-130, the ski-equipped version. of the work plane.
The simulator contains the actual switches and instruments of a real C-130, along with computer algorithms that allow it to behave as the real aircraft would in a wide range of scenarios.
“This one is a full motion simulator, good 3D viewing, kind of like IMAX,” Sander said. “He really does a great job.”
The project has two components: the construction of a building and its infrastructure, which will be supervised internally; and the assembly and installation of the simulator itself, which will be carried out by the manufacturer.
Major Shawn Rulison, commander of the 109th Civil Engineer Squadron, said alignment of contractors and permits is expected to take the rest of 2022. He hopes for a first groundbreaking in 2023; construction of the 11,400 square foot building will take about a year. The installation and configuration of the simulator should be completed in 2024.
The General Services Administration of the United States, in announcing the contract opportunity for the construction of the building, estimated its cost between 10 and 25 million dollars.
Rulison said he couldn’t lower the price, especially given the rapidly increasing and fluctuating construction costs. But funding has been earmarked for the project and is in place, he said.
The building will include a two-story 65-by-65-foot bay for the simulator, as well as high-capacity electrical and air conditioning systems and a separate computer room that will run everything.
The simulator looks nothing like a C-130 from the outside, but inside it’s indistinguishable from the real thing, Rulison said. And it is adaptable to varying needs, he added.
The original C-130A Hercules first flew as a prototype in 1954 and entered service in 1956; the current C-130J has been produced since 1998. Along the way, more than 70 variants have been produced, from tanker to gunner to polar skier.
It is one of the most durable aircraft designs of all time, covering more than half of the era of powered flight.
But each model and some variants are a little different from the previous ones. With the power of modern computers, a simulator can be programmed to match one’s idiosyncrasies.
The simulator installed at Stratton will be switchable between the LC-130H and the C-130H, Rulison said.
The 109th is known for the LC-130H, which has retractable wheels for paved or dirt runways and skis attached to its belly for snow and ice landings. But to save the ski birds from training wear, the wing also flies the C-130H, which only has retractable wheels.
The simulation facility that will be built at Stratton will be future-proof: If the 109th gets the LC-130J aircraft on its wish list, the structure will be able to accommodate the Model J simulator, Rullison said.
LC-130 crews on Antarctic missions to support scientific research have a different set of challenges than most military aviators. Rather than flying in a combat zone, they fly in potentially the worst weather conditions on the planet, sometimes zero-zero in a whiteout.
“We call it flying inside a ping pong ball,” Sander said.
Typically, the 109th will fly to Greenland to practice this, then sit and wait on a bad weather day for actual flight operations – which comes at a cost in time, money, fuel and wear of the equipment and the people who operate it. .
“What we will do with this simulator is we will put an Antarctic environment, a Greenlandic environment in it,” he said.
Nothing will completely replace actual flight training, Sander said, but the simulator is a good complement, and the new model will allow the 109th to do that at home rather than in Arkansas, Minnesota or Georgia, where it has traveled in recent years for his simulated flight hours.
When the simulator is operational, Stratton will likely take on the role of host, Sander added, eventually operating the machine in two shifts.
“I expect other C-130 bases to eventually come here and do some of their annual training,” he said.
Realistic training extends beyond the flight deck for the 109th. It is developing a virtual reality and distance learning program for its maintenance teams to train in routine repairs in conjunction with facilities half a continent away.
There is also the FuT.
The Fuselage Trainer was a spent C-130 at the end of its useful life. Instead of being taken to the cemetery, it was stripped of wings and engines and trucked to Stratton. The power tailgate still works, so for ground seating, it’s a viable classroom – loadmasters, firefighters and others can practice on it without scratching or denting an airworthy aircraft.
“It was a local initiative here at the base,” Sander said, pushed by ambitious loadmasters, the crew in charge of all the passengers and equipment the LC-130 carries.
It all comes down to security and performance.
There are real emergencies that are too risky to deliberately launch into the air for practicality, Sander said, such as multiple engine failure. But they are fair in a simulator.
“Usually they throw a bunch of scenarios at you,” he said.
Fine flying weather gradually becomes lousy, then a strong crosswind develops, then an engine shuts down, all thanks to the programmer in the control cabin. They can even execute more serious in-flight emergencies, such as shutting down both engines of a wing.
The entire crew in the simulator pod must operate as if they were on the high seas, until they communicate with the base.
“Every aspect of what you might have to do, you still have to do in the simulator,” Sander said.
As a career C-130 pilot, Sander finds a few shortcomings in simulators: peripheral vision and seat-of-pants feel aren’t quite equal to the actual flight experience. But the electric pistons under the nacelle do a great job of mimicking the movements of the C-130 in flight, he said, tricking the pilot’s inner ear into believing the sensations of shifting balance.
When the flight crew exits the simulator and returns to their distinctive red-tail LC-130s, they are somewhat better prepared for the real-life versions of these computer-generated crises.
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