JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Two 12th Flying Training Wing instructor pilots demonstrated the latest innovation of Air Force training for members of renowned pilot associations at an event hosted by the Order of Daedalians Aug. 27 at the Parr Club at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
Capt. Jay Moore, a 560th Flying Training Squadron pilot, and Lt. Col. Joe Stallings, the 12th FTW Chief of Innovation, showcased virtual reality simulators for more than 40 Daedalians, Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association "River Rats," and A-1 Skyraider Association participants. Just as those professional societies honor early aviation pioneers, today’s Air Force aviators were hoping to win their confidence for contemporary changes.
“Members of the 12th FTW have been spreading the message of pilot training enterprise changes to stakeholders in an effort to promote knowledge-sharing and support,” Stallings said after the event.
The wing's Airmen are building a network with academia, industry, and across all services at Joint Base San Antonio to spark new ideas and establish the foundation for a city-wide innovation hub.
“Since 1st Lt. Benjamin Foulois piloted the first military flight in a Canard biplane over Fort Sam Houston 108 years ago, San Antonio has been an incubator of innovation in military aviation,” Stallings said.
Stallings admitted that the aviators on hand for his event were skeptical at first until they heard about today’s challenges and after hands-on experience with the VR devices.
Moore briefed the assembly on today’s rapidly changing strategic threat environment which is driving some of the changes. He answered questions about recent pilot training syllabi modifications and he outlined the future of undergraduate pilot training. Another topic was the recent initiative at Austin called “Pilot Training Next.” 12th Operations Group squadrons are integrating lessons learned from PTN to streamline flight training.
The veterans tried out standalone VR headsets containing hours of inflight, 360-degree videos. Several flew the T-38C Talon VR systems and glimpsed the future of pilot training.
“We are not just accepting the status quo,” said Lt. Col. Justin Chandler, commander of the 99th Flying Training Squadron earlier this year during a demonstration of a VR laboratory inside Hangar 6 at JBSA-Randolph.
Chandler and other 12th FTW commanders are using a portion of the $64 million of “Squadron Innovation Funds” that Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David Goldfein, announced in a February 2018 press release for “Airmen-led innovations that increase readiness, reduce cost, return time back to Airmen or enhance lethality of the force.”
“We are willing to challenge the question, why are we doing it this way?” “Because we can’t afford to make those decisions with the threat that might emerge in the international framework,” Chandler said.
There are other considerations for him and other 12th FTW “innovators.”
“Recent aircraft mishaps, ongoing maintenance and aircraft availability challenges, as well as manpower shortages both for aircraft and simulator instructor pilots provide a framework to describe major challenges with sustainment of the pilot training pipeline,” Stallings said.
At a small fraction of the price of traditional simulators and roughly the cost of two hours of T-38C flying time, VR offers students the chance to increase their repetitions for each maneuver they learn.
“Ultimately, the goal is to increase instructor pilot graduate quality and decrease training timelines, so the VR training capitalizes on immersive ground training and raises the starting point toward proficiency before students even start their first flight,” Stallings said.
Having also recently completed syllabi beta tests and a pathfinder program to demonstrate the capability of using electronic flight bags for in-flight publication use, 12th FTW Airmen are taking the initiative to find better ways to train and seize the competitive advantage.
“These recent virtual-reality projects are the latest in a series of modernizations for the wing and the beginning of a wave of grassroots, bottom up innovation,” Stallings said.
The wing will take these innovative projects on the road next month to showcase their efforts in National Harbor, Maryland, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber Conference Sept. 17-19.