A couple weeks ago, I got an invitation to come up to Grissom Air Force Reserve base for the day and do some cool stuff. It is one thing to read an email and see the words ‘flight simulator’. It is a totally different experience to get to actually go inside one AND fly a plane. Even if it is on a giant $70 million computer.
The USAFR KC135 Flight Simulator
Grissom Air Force Reserve base is an active base that supports many operation around the globe. The refueling wing that is based here, supplies in-flight fuel to military missions with their KC135 flying gas station. Last year I got to go on a refueling mission. Seeing another plane 30 feet below your plane, was an awesome sight. That was the coolest thing that I got to do until I got to do this.
This facility also serves as a training location for the KC135 airplane. Military personel come to Kokomo, Indiana to learn how to fly and maintain flight certification on this aircraft. The inside is the same setup as the cockpit of the KC135. The only difference is that you are looking at the screens that encase the training unit. The trainer who is assigned to the base is able to program the flight sim with almost any situation. He set it to complete fog, that was creepy. You could’t see a thing. This simulation would help the pilots learn how to fly with instruments only. Our flight training only involved steering the plane. The trainer worked the engine controls, flaps, and landing gear.
When we were ready to start the sim, the four of us all looked at each other like, “How real could this be?” We thought the trainers were trying to scare us by asking if we got motion sickness. I will tell you this, when the first person took off down the runway, you felt as if you were taking off in a real aircraft. To get that effect, the sim pod(yes, I made that up) tilts back to 40-50 degrees. The audio is one part of it, but leaning back at 40 degrees, made it seem real. I will never forget, the laughter that everyone had as we rolled doen the runway. So that we could get video of the plane taking off from outside the plane, the instructor agreed to take off for us. He also set the turbulence to 100%. The sim shook and rocked. I was glad I was not in there. The trainer came out looking pretty shaken up as well.
We all got to take off, fly for a bit, and land the plane from ten miles out. That is a lot harder than I ever imagined. keeping the plane straight and listening to the trainer tell you what to do was crazy mad. Flying the KC135 was like steering a boat. You turn the wheel and it took a bit for the plane to react, which is normal in the bigger aircraft. Turns, seemed to take forever to make. So, if the nose was pointed down too much, it took a little longer to correct the problem.
We also learned that you don’t get the cool pilot names that you heard in Top Gun or any other fast flying jet movie. We are called heavies because of the size of the plane. Another thing I learned, quoting the movie Airplane while sitting behind the stick is way cool. Especially when you get to ask people if they’ve seen any gladiator movies. Getting told not to call the co-pilot Shirley was pretty cool as well.
I hope you enjoyed the video. My next adventure at Grissom Air Force Reserve base should be just as interesting. We got our ‘orders’, but can’t talk about it until after our ‘mission’. I will give you a hint, it involves guns and shooting. I should have that post up and written by next week.
Take Care and Keep Flying Straight!