Aviators benefit from cockpit trainers
W01 Harry Thomas, W01 Jon Szopinski, and W01 Ben Stoddart, all of B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, get familiar with the new Cockpit Academic Procedural Trainers that are available to flight students and Aviators at the Aviation Learning Center Jan. 17.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Aviation Learning Center on Fort Rucker received four new Cockpit Academic Procedural Trainers to help flight students and transitioning Aviators stay proficient Jan. 9.

The learning center received two of each of the UH-60M Black Hawk and the CH-47F Chinook cockpit trainers to help Fort Rucker flight students, said Capt. Jared K. Koelling, assistant U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capability manager.

"These devices were installed in the learning center in order to benefit the students and Aviators learning to fly these aircraft," said Koelling. "Basically these devices allow anybody from initial-entry flight students to Aviators that are transitioning from the older UH-60 Alpha/Lima and CH-47 Delta models."

The cockpit trainers can also be used for sustainment training, according to the captain.

"It's a nice tool for Aviators that might have been away from the flight line for a while," he said. "They can come into the learning center on their own time and brush up on their training before they step into the aircraft."

The fact that the CAPTs are available to Aviators on their own time is a big advantage to having these in the learning center, according to George Snyder, instructor at the Aviation Learning Center.

"These cockpit trainers are meant to help enhance the flight student's training, and more importantly, support the training that the academic classes teach them," he said. "When they are in classes learning, they aren't yet pushing the buttons or sitting down and getting a feel for the controls. The classes only have a certain amount of time each day to teach [the students].

"The flight line and the academic side are all structured and very limited by their time," said Snyder, "whereas here, students can come in during their spare time and take as much time as they need to learn what they need to understand about operating the aircraft."

"These cockpit trainers allow the flight students to be more proficient while on the actual flight line as well," said Koelling. "By using the CAPTs, the students can actually plot points on the map of the multi-functional display, and watch the aircraft fly to the points that were plotted. This way they can actually see the result of their actions."

"The flight students have to plan out their missions and with the CAPTs, they can see an actual map on the multi-functional displays and see where their aircraft is flying in the local area," said Snyder. "You don't get that kind of interaction in a classroom or reading it out of a book."

The CAPTs are expensive pieces of equipment -- costing around $82,000 each -- but according to Jill Redington, chief of the U.S Army Aviation Technical Library and the Aviation Learning Center, they practically pay for themselves.

"When you think of the amount of flight students that come through the learning center -- which last year was between 150,000 to 170,000 students -- these devices cost pennies per person to operate," she said. "Compared to the cost of having to run actual aircraft to train, these machines pay for themselves.

"The big thing is the availability to the flight students," said Redington, "and it's 21st century technology that is available to them. But it's not just the equipment that is available to them that makes it great, it's the expertise of the training instructors."

Currently the CAPT devices are stand-alone machines without a cockpit shell around them, but according to Koelling, that will eventually change.

"A lot of the feedback we've received regarding these cockpit trainers, is that they are great as stand-alone devices, but they would be better if there were some sort of reference point, meaning an actual cockpit around the devices," he said. "There are plans to eventually have cockpit shells build around the CAPT devices, but there is no timeframe."

The hours of the learning center are: Sundays, 12:15 to 9 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Page last updated Thu January 19th, 2012 at 08:51