By Spc. Monica K. Smith, CAB, 3rd IDJuly 16, 2009
FORT STEWART, Ga. -- The Soldier looks out of the cockpit of the Apache and begins to pull the lever in his right hand up while trying to balance the power in the lever in his left hand and the pedals at his feet. He watches the horizon descend beneath him and then the aircraft begins to tilt to the left. More , more... The ground comes up quickly and soon the view out of the cockpit is flashing red. Simulation over.
Pilots with the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, are spending time in the aircraft simulators at Hunter Army Airfield.
"This gives (pilots) another training environment," said Chief Warrant Officer Ken Evans, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3 CAB, 3rd ID. "You can simulate a lot of environments and events that can damage an aircraft and kill you in the real world. You can get in here, train skills, technique and engage the enemy and everyone walks away, goes home. No one is hurt and no one hurt any aircraft."
Pilots on Hunter have access to simulators that are designed to train Apache, Kiowa Warriors and Black Hawk pilots at the flight simulator facility. The simulators allow pilots to practice drills and procedures prior to being evaluated at a range.
"We use them prior to going to gunnery for crew training," said Capt. Joseph Clark, Headquarters Company 1/3 Avn. "It's like zero-ing your M-16 and practicing before qualifying. We practice crew coordination because this aircraft does not fly itself. It takes two people to fly it. In a Black Hawk you can see the other pilot's hands as he's moving, but with an Apache, you sit one behind the other, and you can't see what the other person is doing. You have to communicate. You could very easily kill each other if you're not communicating."
"He can't just reach out and push the buttons for you," added Chief Warrant Officer Evans. "He can't see you, so we train and you're evaluated on how well you communicate. That's what makes Apache pilots the best pilots out there."
With the help of the simulators, pilots are capable of training in a multitude of environments and scenarios. Pilots are able to fly in rainy conditions over the skyline in South Korea or engage insurgents over Afghanistan.
"The simulator can replicate a high cockpit work load and a high-stress environment," said Chief Warrant Officer Evans. "You can't safely replicate that aside from here. The simulator gives you a wide variety of databases. We flew the Iraq database before the last deployment, it's a generic database, but it can simulate the temperature, environment, terrain, weather, aircraft performance, you can add engagements - you can make it as complicated as you'd like."
Soldiers interested in pursuing a career in Army aviation can schedule time with an instructor to try their hand at flying before going to warrant officer or officer candidacy school.
"The simulator can give those who have never flown before a general idea of what it's like to be in the aircraft," said Chief Warrant Officer Lenny Irwin, 3rd CAB safety officer. "It's not to teach them anything, but it gives them an idea of what it's like to be in an aircraft. The simulator allows pilots to practice emergency procedures so that if it does happen, they can react to it as second nature because of their continual practice."