Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Adjustment of This Machine's Settings Brings Battle to Hunter Army Airfield; If Pilots Crash the Apache Helicopter Simulator, "We Just Reset Them."

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Adjustment of This Machine's Settings Brings Battle to Hunter Army Airfield; If Pilots Crash the Apache Helicopter Simulator, "We Just Reset Them."

Article excerpt

Byline: SEAN HARDER

SAVANNAH -- Brad Coy abruptly presses the helicopter's cyclic against his left knee, sending his imaginary Apache into a roll.

Hydraulics tilt his pilot seat, and the computer-generated landscape in front of him spins upside down, then right side up again.

"That's not an authorized maneuver," says the retired Army Apache pilot turned civilian flight instructor as the horizon levels off on the 180-degree screen.

Coy's mid-air roll shows the Apache Longbow AH-64D can handle the prohibited maneuver. And it demonstrates the value of modern flight simulators: Army pilots get to practice scenarios and fire weapons too impractical or expensive in the real world.

"We can train for just about every possible emergency procedure, from engine failure, fire and hydraulic failures," Coy said. "And if they crash, we just reset them."

The Army recently set up its second Apache Longbow flight simulator on Hunter Army Airfield for the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment. The unit's 24 Apaches and more than 300 soldiers will finish relocating to Hunter this month from Fort Bragg, N.C., under the Pentagon's base realignment plan.

The Apache simulators sit in a 53-foot camouflage trailer that houses both the pilot and co-pilot cockpits. A bank of computers lets instructors concoct a range of scenarios, changing the landscape or creating enemy forces.

Designed by Boeing, the simulators are also mobile. They take less than five days to set up and can be sent overseas so soldiers can continue to train during deployments. The 80,000-pound trailers barely fit into a C-5, the largest military cargo plane, said Jim Hilton, a veteran Army pilot and chief of flight simulations at Hunter.

"I have about an inch-and-a-half of clearance when we're off-loading one of these," Hilton said. "It's a very slow process. …

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