Soaring above the White House
and past the Washington Monument, a team from Manhattan Regional Airport, or
MHK, explored Washington, acting as a helicopter crew in a CH-47 Chinook.
The catch? They were still on
the ground at Fort Riley in a Transportable Flight Proficiency Simulator.
With a lot of Fort Riley aircraft
trafficking through MHK and occasional mutual aid between the air traffic
control facilities, Peter Van Kuren, airport director, MHK, said he wanted to
bring his team out to see Fort Riley’s aviation operation. The team got an
overview of Fort Riley’s air traffic control, airfield operations, flight simulators
and engagement skills trainer May 29 at Marshall Army Airfield.
“We wanted to do something a
little bit different,” Van Kuren said of the departmental outing. “It’s a great
opportunity just to come over here.”
Van Kuren said the visit was
a first for the team, which included MHK administration and maintenance staff.
“One of the things we focus
on is just operating as a team, and we do that at the airport every day,” he
said. “The military is nothing but teamwork.”
The team flew several
simulators, including the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer, or AVCATT.
“It was fun,” said Jameelah
Mitchell, office assistant, MHK, after exiting the AVCATT. “It felt like we
were in an actual helicopter, and, basically, we were learning how to power up,
keep the nose of the helicopter level and learn a bit left and right turning.”
The simulators provide a way
for aviators to maintain proficiency, while delivering cost savings, said Frank
Carbonneau, lead instructor and quality assurance representative, Directorate of
Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
“Primarily, it’s for
maintaining proficiency,” he said. “Once they’re proficient here, they go out
to the range and actually qualify.”
The cost of operating an actual
aircraft can range from $4,000 to $10,000 per hour, depending on the type of
aircraft. The cost of operating a simulator is about $300 per hour.
“It’s quite a bit of cost
savings,” Carbonneau said, adding ammunition can further drive up actual costs
versus that of the simulator.
The simulators also are
“Today’s simulators are equipped
with visual systems, sound, vibration, instrumentation, radio communication and
intercom systems that combine to simulate actual helicopter environmental
conditions,” he said. “Visual databases are available, allowing aviators to conduct
mission training or familiarize themselves with a new duty assignment prior to
any change of station.”
The flight scenarios and
databases can be configured for different missions, like night vision,
emergency operations, gunnery and more, in a variety of different areas, like
the Washington simulation the MHK staff experienced. “
Today’s modern simulators can
be configured to meet the needs of individual aviators, crews and the training needs
of the unit,” Carbonneau said, adding Fort Riley provides regional support for military
aviators in surrounding states.
In addition to being fully customizable,
the simulators maximize training time and allow for immediate feedback.
Having the opportunity to see
Fort Riley’s operations lets the MHK team see new aspects of aviation, Van
“This is all new stuff for us,”
he said. “To see their side of it is advantageous.”