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Simulated flight adds to B-course in the air

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --  Capt. Tim Bobinski, 2nd Fighter Squadron B-course student, performs a preflight checklist inside an F-15 Eagle simulator. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chrissy Cuttita)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Capt. Tim Bobinski, 2nd Fighter Squadron B-course student, performs a preflight checklist inside an F-15 Eagle simulator. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chrissy Cuttita)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --  Jim Miller, Lockheed Martin instructor pilot, runs through the pre-flight checklist with Capt. Tim Bobinski while he observes his actions in the F-15 simulator. Captain Bobinski is a 2nd Fighter Squadron B-course student. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chrissy Cuttita)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Jim Miller, Lockheed Martin instructor pilot, runs through the pre-flight checklist with Capt. Tim Bobinski while he observes his actions in the F-15 simulator. Captain Bobinski is a 2nd Fighter Squadron B-course student. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chrissy Cuttita)

2nd Fighter Squadron

2nd Fighter Squadron

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- (This is the fourth of a five-part series covering the F-15 Eagle training B-course students receive here.)

You can't fly, fight and win as an F-15 Eagle pilot without valuable time in a state-of-the art aircraft simulator located here.

"Student pilots fly four simulator missions before they get their first F-15 ride," said Marty Hendrickson, an instructional systems specialist for the F-15 training program here. "The simulator flights help us make sure the students have the basic skills required to fly the aircraft and are prepared to deal with any emergencies that may arise."

Throughout the 125-day B-course training program, 35 simulator missions are 'flown,' which is a total of nearly 40 simulator hours. Once the student successfully solos in the aircraft, the remaining simulator flights are scheduled at various points in the course curriculum.

"The advantage of simulator training is that it offers students the opportunity to experience realistic F-15 missions and practice emergency procedures in a controlled environment before actually operating in the jet," said Capt. Tim Bobinski, 2nd Fighter Squadron B-course student.

The initial 12 hours of simulator training typically consist of testing the student's response to approximately 10 different potential emergency situations, as well as standard ground checks, radio calls and basic instrument flying.

The simulators provide a realistic training environment with one exception - the students can't feel the force of gravity acting upon them during maneuvers, Mr. Hendrickson said.

"The simulator doesn't pull Gs like the aircraft, and if the student crashes, he gets to climb out in one piece. Therefore, we make sure they are taught the same discipline that's required in the aircraft so they don't take negative skills to the flightline," Mr. Hendrickson said.

Even with the limitations of gravity, the simulators are a huge leap forward from the way training was previously accomplished, he said.

"Prior to getting full mission trainers, we had to teach in operational flight trainers that offered no visual system. Once the canopy closed, the student would be alone in the dark practicing radar work beyond visual range," Mr. Hendrickson said. "The student couldn't practice 'fighting' up-close, and we couldn't even teach take-off and landing procedures. With the new visual system we can teach basically everything that the aircraft can do."

Fighter Data Link technology allows students to fly virtual formations in the simulator. Students practice with a training version of the Fighter Data Link system which simulates the advanced technology used in operational F-15 aircraft.

The technology provides pilots realtime radar pictures of surrounding aircraft and weapons systems - both friendly and hostile. Additionally, students train with night vision goggles, which prepares them for the actual night missions flown later in the course.

The simulators offer a cost-saving benefit to the training program. With the visual system located on Tyndall, students don't need to travel to other bases to get valuable training.

"I don't think there's any way the simulator can totally prepare you for flying because of all the sights and sounds associated with actually being out on the flightline, being airborne, looking around and pulling Gs," said Captain Bobinski.

The captain completed eight simulated flights before his first real mission in an Eagle.

"It helps us learn where all the needed switches are, and how to correctly operate all the aircraft systems. It also gives us a realistic view of the local airspace and an accurate, yet general idea of how to fly the jet," said Captain Bobinski.