JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
The T-6 Texan II pilots assigned to the 559th Flying Training Squadron participated in testing new immersive training device, or ITD, prototypes from Feb. 1-5 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
The ITDs are a type of virtual reality technology that uses simulations to create the feeling of being in a physical world and are used for various types of training, including Undergraduate Pilot Training and Pilot Instructor Training.
The squadron used a contracted company to brief, facilitate, and gather formal feedback on what instructors and student pilots thought of the new ITD. The feedback was gathered by a wide demographic of new and experienced pilots, and pilot instructors. It’s based on functionality, simplicity, and user-friendliness, and will be used to determine what changes the ITD needs.
“The intent is to be able to pull the right training to the right level of device,” said Mike Edwards, contractor and project manager. “Pilots can use this equipment to perform thorough aircraft checks.”
The evaluation began by having each pilot complete a questionnaire. Questions included what type of flight experience each pilot had and what their experience using virtual reality was. Following that, pilots used the Learning Management System, or LMS.
The LMS is a program pilots use to log onto the ITD. They are able to check their courses, grades, flight tasks, assignments, set up exercises, and change virtual weather conditions.
“We look at different squadrons in different locations to better determine what training tasks are needed to effectively train pilots,” said Julian Abich IV, contracted senior engineer. “We find out what priorities these systems need in order to be able to train each of these specific types of flight tasks.”
The evaluation process continued when pilots put on a virtual reality headset and began a flying simulation. The pilots ran through a series of virtual tasks, which included starting the aircraft, taking off on the virtual runway, and conducting their usual flying training activities.
“We ask them certain questions such as, ‘How did the stick feel, how did the rudder feel, and are the petals accurate?’ The main goal that we are trying to get here is to see if the VR equipment will be effective training for these different scenarios,” said Michael King, contracted engineer. “We are figuring out how we can improve these systems to make them more effective for the pilots.”
At the conclusion of the simulation, pilots took a final survey.
“The simulations are good for pilots to get practice,” said 2nd Lt. Adam Payne, a pilot instructor training student assigned to the 559th FTS. “They give instructors good flexibility to do more off-script types of training.”
Maj. Nathan Moseley, 559th FTS assistant director of operations, praised the virtual evaluation and compared it to getting stronger at the gym.
“Much like getting stronger at the gym takes reps, so does exercising the student’s mind. Exercising reps in the aircraft can become quite expensive, so having the ability to perform repetitions in the virtual environment will save costs and will allow students to practice flight administration, cross-checking, task management, and several other competencies that are required to succeed in the dynamic flight environment.”