Simulators Train Many, Save Thousands
The Maine Army National Guard Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment acquired Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainers which are mobile aviation simulator systems for training.
US Army, May 09, 2014 - BANGOR, Maine By Sgt Angela Parady - Even with all elements of the United States military preparing for budget cuts, the need to meet training and safety standards is still important so that we can remain fully mission capable.
Recently, the Maine Army National Guard’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment acquired Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainers, which are mobile aviation simulator systems for their annual training.
By using the simulators, the unit is saving the state roughly $500,000 for their two-week training period.
The AVCATTs allow the units to train more individuals, while saving money because they don’t require fuel or the maintenance expenses of actual air craft.
The medical evacuation pilots in Charlie Company are able to work with technicians to set up the scenarios for the simulators. The technology of the equipment allows the programmers to virtually place the pilot anywhere in the world, under any types of conditions.
For Charlie Company, the scenarios were based on real world, combat scenarios where the soldiers would be waiting for the call for a medical evacuation. They could jump in the cockpit, where they would get a medevac request read to them, and then head to the GPS coordinates provided.
The simulator gives the pilot and copilot the feeling of being in a hostile area. Their mission requires them to fly into a combative environment, sometimes taking fire to get the injured individual and bring them to a safe area, or hospital, depending on the medical needs.
Air medevac pilot, 1st Lt. J.J. Marcigliano, said that having these tools available increased the value of their annual training, and allowed them to have more time flying, and less time traveling to and from different facilities to do so.
“We have just under 120 people in our unit,” he said. “We are all required to complete nearly 96 hours of flight time a year, plus 12 hours of simulator training. Normally, to get our simulator training, we have to spend a whole weekend or week commuting to Pennsylvania to do so. That’s time off from work, funds for additional people to fly us there, fuel to fly us there, or the cost of a commercial flight, it adds up. This is a great resource to have, even just for the short period we have them.”
While convenient, the mobile units do not provide the full effect of being in the air, so many of the pilots have to spend some time getting used to having their brain and eyes reacting to movement, while their bodies remain in place.
“Unlike a full motion simulator that has the capability of giving you a fuller flying experience, including that feeling of being on the edge of your seat, your body stays put in these,” said Marcigliano. “So your brain and eyes are seeing one thing, and your body is expecting to feel what you see, but you don’t, so that’s weird. We spent two days just working on getting familiarized so that everyone could experience that disconnect of what you are not feeling and what you are seeing. It does feel weird flying without any motion especially when you know how the aircraft flies.”
Sgt. A.J. Mears, the aviation operations sergeant for the company, said he thinks these are a great opportunity to give the soldiers more flight time at a lower cost to the state.
“These give us the opportunity to experience missions that we wouldn’t normally be involved with unless we are in an actual combat environment,” said the Springvale native. “Without these, we wouldn’t be able to experience any of the hard stuff, in any sort of capacity.”
Marcigliano agreed that this is a safe way for the newer pilots to get the experience of receiving a request and reacting to it, with access to the survivability equipment that isn’t available on a day-to-day basis, without being put in harm’s way.
“Certain equipment is only activated when you are in that combat environment,” he said. “You can test the equipment on the ground, make sure things are working, hear the audio. As far as flying, as far as having the audio go off and shooting flares and having the system tell you are being tracked at your three o’clock you can’t get that on a daily basis.”
Charlie Company has been and continues to be a valuable asset to the state, ready and able to assist state medical evacuations where they need to be. The equipment they have, such as their hoist capabilities allow them to get to some locations that the LifeFlight can’t get to. Statewide they have helped with people who are injured, or lost, and in times of state emergencies.
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