Local News

On-the-Ground Flight Training Feels Like the Real Thing

Posted July 11, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Despite last week's crash of a Black Hawk helicopter at Fort Bragg, the Army still has confidence in its Black Hawk units.

The chopper's safety record has improved in recent years, and pilots frequently train for emergencies.

In order to be effective in wartime, military pilots learn to fly in all sorts of situations they might encounter. They learn to fly at tree top level, in bad weather, and at night, so they train and train some more, but not all of it can be done in the air.

It's sounds and looks just like the cockpit of an army Black Hawk helicopter, but it's really a simulator -- a high-tech one that comes with a $30 million price tag.

Instructor Mike Henderson says the simulators are very effective and accurate in duplicating all sorts of conditions.

The simulator at Fort Bragg does far more than teach soldiers basic flying skills. Henderson says most flying conditions can be simulated there.

Black Hawk pilots must put in 20 hours per year on the simulator. Some get up to 60 hours, and Henderson says that's time well spent on a piece of equipment that can help save lives.

Even during peace time the margin for error can be small because crews train just as they would fight, but that doesn't mean they throw caution to the wind.

Larry Newsom of the 18th Aviation Brigade says they have to know what they're doing at all times.

There are risks involved. That's the nature of preparing for war. Army leaders say they've tried to minimize those risks by placing a priority on safety.