CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Civilian employees at Cherry Point’s Marine Corps Aviation Training System play an integral role in maintaining 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s combat readiness.
The engineers and technicians work to maintain Aviation Training Systems and the individual devices that make up parts of the system. The employees are skilled with installing modifications to the devices to improve the realism of the training and to keep the devices current with today’s aircraft technology.
The engineers are a part of the In-Service Engineering Office, which is a part of the Field Division of Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division Command. The ISEO personnel provide on-site engineering support for training systems.
Maurice McDonald, an in-service engineer for AV-8B Harrier flight simulators, assists pilots who train on the simulators by updating the software and hardware pilots use to keep their skills sharp.
During training McDonald and his team are able to make near-instantaneous changes to simulators’ programming, presenting pilots with challenges they did not plan for. Sometimes by request, pilots are given separate and unique situations in the simulator that help sharpen combat readiness, McDonald said.
Through recent advancements in technology, pilots are now transitioning from a stand-alone training system to an integrated training environment. Simulators in separate locations can now link data, allowing Marines to train together on the same scenario though they may be geographically separated by thousands of miles.
“This [new] technology allows Marines at Cherry Point to fly with Marines in Yuma in a virtual reality,” said McDonald. “It’s virtual because it’s here on a computer system but it could very much be a mission where the two have to fly together in a real-world operation.”
The simulators provide Marines with numerous training scenarios and can be used 12 to 14 hours a day, five or more days a week to help pilots train and refine their combat efficiency. The simulators provide the Marine Corps a low-cost alternative to actual flight operations while presenting pilots with the closest version of reality available.
Johnny Truett, the lead engineer at Cherry Point, started as an in-service engineer supporting the KC-130 flight trainers in 1986. Now in charge of all engineers east of the Mississippi, Truett has been around to see the technological development of the systems and the advantage they provide pilots at Cherry Point.
“I’ve seen amazing advances in technology that have enabled us to greatly expand the types of training we can accomplish in the flight simulators,” said Truett.
The amount of space, energy, and manpower required to operate and maintain a simulator have all decreased over the past several years, according to Truett.
“The simulators today consume significantly less space and power, and the fidelity of the simulation, especially the simulated visual imagery, has improved tremendously.”