REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — The next generation of Army pilots are learning to fly in new and innovative ways — in part thanks to the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center.
The Cockpit Academic Procedural Tool — Enhanced Visual Control System, or CAPT-EVCS, gives pilots an opportunity to sit in the system, interact with the controls, displays, and visualization as if in an aircraft. The system, a classroom enhancer, is designed to look, feel and even smell like a helicopter.
“It is used for a qualification course and also used for sustainment,” said Nick Nickles, UH-60M Crew Station Lead for DEVCOM AvMC. “Let’s say it is bad weather that day and they cannot fly in the aircraft. They can go in and refresh on how to do flight planning or communications or hone a skill. It is also a good tool not to burn gas or cause wear and tear to an aircraft.”
CAPT-EVCS includes two computers, three projectors, one flat-panel television and one set of high-fidelity emulation of tactical hardware. The simulation software is UH-60M Aircraft Avionics Procedural Software, which is also a high-fidelity emulation of an operational flight program, aircraft systems and flight dynamics. Nickles said it was essential that CAPT-EVCS be as realistic as possible so pilot trainees do not develop bad habits that they take with them into the aircraft.
To create that realistic experience, the DEVCOM AvMC engineers spend time in actual Army aircraft at Fort Rucker coding and doing comparison testing, Nickles said.
The software and hardware are used throughout government agencies to support pilot training. But in addition to training future pilots, CAPT-EVCS gives DEVCOM AvMC engineers the opportunity to work with program offices to visualize what is possible for the future of Army aircraft, with input from Army pilots in periodic crew stations three to four times a year. Nickles said that oftentimes after the crew testing, the engineers will build that input into the software that evening so when the pilots return the next day, their suggestions can be tested in real time.
Both UH-60M and CH-47F AAPS are currently being integrated with the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation’s Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer – Aviation hardware and Synthetic Environment software, which is capable of integrating with third party software and hardware in a modular open systems approach for the Future Airborne Capability Environment.
The versatility of the software is also a benefit to the customer, allowing more customization for their mission, said aerospace engineer Josh DuPont, who works on CAPT-EVCS as part of the Aviation Crew Stations branch.
“This is used as a classroom enhancer, or tool,” added Nickles. “Our software is always current and ahead of the aircraft. When they do put that new stuff in, we're already ready to just do a quick modification wherever tweaks were done on it, and we'll be concurrent the same time as when the software hits the real aircraft so they can learn right away.”
This adaptability enables CAPT-EVCS to support rapid integrations that make it a proven player in Army modernization efforts.
“We have built five years of capabilities that aren’t even in the aircraft yet,” Nickles said.
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.