“What we use it for here is for the F-16 pilots to do their annual training to help them out in case there ever is that situation where they have to eject,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Adams, 35th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Specialist. “It’s a pretty good program we have here, and throughout the Air Force.” Previously, training was conducted with a parachute harness hanging from the ceiling.
“Before we got the simulator we had the hanging harness. They would step up, get into it and we would just talk them through the procedures to kind of pretend what they could see,” said Sergeant Adams. “Now they have the no-kidding virtual system, where they have the goggles over their eyes so they can see everything they are doing, including the canopy itself.”
The new computerized system allows a program manager to input various elements and scenarios to test the jumper’s ability. “I can go in and pick the type of parachute we want to use,” explained Sergeant Adams. “I can pick if it has malfunctions. I can put in winds, rain, fog, night, day, using night vision goggles, depending on different type of operations. Once we build the program we want that individual to jump, they will get into the harness and put the helmet on.”
The helmet includes lenses that allow the jumper to see the ground below and the canopy above. The program manager can also watch what the jumper is seeing on a computer monitor. This allows the program manager to talk the jumper through any problems and make corrections.
As an experienced parachutist with 200 jumps, 20 of those jumps in an ejection parachute, Sergeant Adams said the program is surprisingly accurate. “It is pretty accurate as far as the different types of parachutes — how fast they can turn and correct malfunctions,” he said. “It’s a really good tool to help somebody on trying to steer to a certain location, be it going to a target or just a safe area to land so they don’t get injured.”
The realistic training provided from the safety of the simulator serves as an important training tool. “It’s very realistic,” said Sergeant Adams. “Even the individuals who have jumped before, who have ejected before, said it was really close. I can tell you right now that we have a couple of pilots who have ejected – one on land, one on water. Both walked away and they were flying days later. So the training we give them here does help them to return home and work another day.”