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NEWS | March 5, 2021

Innovation soars; Lands at CAFB

By Airman 1st Class Jessica Haynie 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – Columbus Air Force Base provided projected Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) students a new and innovative way to prepare as they await the start of the rigorous courses they will experience throughout their training through virtual reality. Most students expect long wait times, between 3 to 12 months, before they begin SUPT training.

Commanders and other personnel part of Team Blaze used existing resources and technology within the 14th Student Squadron, to expand the training infrastructure for Columbus AFB student pilots.

Augmented training equipment was placed in renovated officer dorms, in partnership with unaccompanied officer housing manager, Peggy Gunther, providing ease of access to the equipment for all student pilots.

The temporary training facility includes four immersive training devices (ITD’s), which are similar to home-built gaming PCs with high-end flight simulator software along with standard stick and rudder flight controls.

Several virtual reality headsets were also included allowing students to watch 360-degree training videos recorded by the 37th & 41st training squadron instructor pilots.

According to U.S. Air Force Capt. William Cawthorne, 37th Flying Training Squadron T-6 instructor pilot, training videos include checklist procedures, flight patterns, and various aerobatic maneuvers that students are expected to perform in the aircraft.

In addition, several electronic flight bags were added, which provide students access to every regulation and training publication they would need during their training at CAFB.

Delivery of multiple cockpit flight trainers are also expected, which will broaden the student’s access to fully operational cockpits featuring functional switches & gauges to further enhance the training experience.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph McCane, 14th Student Squadron commander, said it’s awesome to provide the students the ability to training where they live instead of having to go to campus.

“I expect to see big benefits from this new resource,” said McCane. “We expect to see a better quality students once they hit the flight line.”
Cawthorne was a primary coordinator to ensure the project was completed in a timely and efficient manner.

“Moving forward, our ultimate goal is to get a standalone student training facility,” said Cawthorne “This is a great start.”

Cawthorne said this is a huge advancement for student pilots awaiting training.

“When I went through pilot training we were not allowed to have any kind of equipment because the instructors didn’t want anyone to have an unfair advantage,” said Cawthorne. “The equipment is available to all student pilots, we want them to have that head start. Ultimately we want students to show up already walking, not crawling, so that they are ready to run.”

2nd Lt. Connor Spencer, 14th Student Squadron student pilot, provided much of the man power needed to get the equipment set up.

When asked how he felt about the addition, Spencer said that he likes the added education a lot and he feels it will be beneficial to the students in the dorms in familiarizing themselves with the aircraft controls before training.

Because existing equipment and space were utilized, the monetary cost of the project was minimal.

Lt. Col. Tyler Johnson, 14th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, said they played a little role in making a big accomplishment for flying training mission.

After the idea was brought to him to provide simulator capabilities for the students, Johnson found the space to make it happen.

The training equipment provided had to go through numerous steps in order to be set up and function properly, this is where the 14th Communication Squadron (CS) stepped in.

Maj. Brandon Palmer, 14th CS commander, conducted surveys to see the capabilities of the infrastructure and what needed to be improved so that the systems could run at their full capabilities.

“Putting up additional fiber optic cables and improving the communication capabilities was not only to support this effort,” said Palmer. “This will support any future needs that the dorms will have as this ‘Dorms as a weapon’ concept grows.”

“We are looking at the dorms as the first step in a three-step process with our end goal ultimately resulting in a standalone facility that during duty hours would allow students to accomplish syllabus events and outside of duty hours would provide that safe space for students to study and mission plan for the next day”, said Cawthorne. “Our next step would be a temporary facility to allow us to expand from the single dorm suite and until we can finalize the plans for the potential stand-alone facility.”

This project falls in line with Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb’s, Air Education and Training Command commander, mission to create ready and lethal Airmen who fuel the Air and Space Force.

The innovative learning equipment will provide additional knowledge that will help these students prepare so they can excel during training.