MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Japan - All Marine pilots face an endless number of variables every time they take to the air in their respective platforms. However, the Corps provides its personnel with special equipment, preparing pilots for as many of those variables as possible.
On Okinawa, Osprey pilots train with the MV-22 Osprey Containerized Flight Training Device, an Osprey flight simulator located at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The air station has two simulators, which can be linked together for simultaneous training of two pilots.
The simulator is a safe and cost-effective training device in which pilots sit in an Osprey cockpit and conduct virtual flight missions, allowing them to experience and respond to almost any foreseeable flight situation without putting lives or aircraft at risk.
“In the real world, mistakes can cost lives and damage equipment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Andrew Bauer, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of Marine Aviation Training Systems Site Futenma, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Practicing emergency procedures and specific flight patterns in the simulator allows aircrews to pilot the Osprey more efficiently and safely in the real world.”
While the simulator offers a unique, valuable opportunity for pilots, it is important to note that virtual flight hours are no replacement for the critical training and experience that real-life flights provide, according to Col. Jeff A. Hagan, the assistant to the chief of staff, G-3, operations and training, 1st MAW.
“The simulator is a fantastic asset for our Osprey pilots, but the actual sensations and feelings experienced in the air during actual training flights are critical,” said Hagan. “The role of the simulator is to supplement training flights and provide opportunities for pilots to practice a variety of scenarios.”
The device simulates situations the pilots may encounter, from enemy threats to friendly maneuvers to inclement weather conditions, according to Maj. John P. Arnold, the officer in charge of MATSS Futenma.
“They can conduct air-to-air refueling, link two simulators together and see each other’s aircraft, and practice (flight) formations,” said Arnold.
Since the majority of flight missions for Ospreys involve a two-aircraft formation, simulators provide excellent opportunities for realistic training when linked up, according to Arnold.
“The pilots get to conduct the same mission and rehearse communications procedures over the radios in the presence of their instructors,” said Arnold. “This allows the pilots to get instant, direct and invaluable feedback while training.”
Another advantage of the simulator is its ability to prepare pilots to fly in a wide range of weather conditions, simulating unpredictable weather.
“We can put any weather condition possible in the simulator, so pilots can practice flying at night, in the snow, during heavy winds, rain, dust storms, brown or white out landings, and in any cloud level,” said Arnold.
Using a virtual alternative to an actual aircraft promotes safety while saving training dollars.
“With the high cost and wear and tear on actual aircraft (during real-world training), flight simulators allow Marine aviators to safely train and execute any of the various missions that could be given to them in a cost-effective environment,” said Wendell Smith, the MATSS Futenma contracting officer representative.
Perhaps most importantly, the simulator gives pilots a chance to think through what actions they would take in a variety of scenarios virtually before encountering them physically.
“This approach to training ensures every conceivable ‘what if’ scenario is identified and properly dealt with before ever strapping into the cockpit,” said Bauer. “It greatly reduces the risk of an actual mishap.”