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The 166th Airlift Wing C-130H2 flight simulator: An essential training tool

U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicholas Baile, 166th Operations Group pilot.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicholas Baile, 166th Operations Group pilot, troubleshoots a start malfunction in the 166th Airlift Wing flight simulator while Capt. Alexandria Anzur, navigator, sits in the co-pilot’s seat. In the simulator, flight crews often get the chance to try their hand in every position: pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and navigator, leading to a greater understanding of other crewmembers’ roles and responsibilities while flying the aircraft.

Navigator U.S. Air Force Capt. Alexandria Anzur prepares her station in the sim for a flight.

Navigator U.S. Air Force Capt. Alexandria Anzur prepares her station in the sim for a flight over the states of Vermont and New Hampshire, Dec. 12, 2019. In the simulator, flight crews often get the chance to try their hand in every position: pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and navigator, leading to a greater understanding of other crewmembers’ roles and responsibilities while flying the aircraft.

The 166th Airlift Wing C-130H2 flight simulator.

The 166th Airlift Wing C-130H2 flight simulator in its dedicated, climate controlled building, Dec. 12, 2019. The sim building also functions as a classroom and has whiteboards, presentation A/V equipment and a conference table for crew training.

Dedicated crew chiefs, U.S. Air Force Tech Sgts Chris Hamilton, Steve Lawrence, and Mark Gede go over engine run procedures.

Dedicated crew chiefs, U.S. Air Force Tech Sgts Chris Hamilton, Steve Lawrence, and Mark Gede go over engine run procedures in the 166th Airlift Wing flight Simulator, Dec. 12, 2019. Each aircraft has a dedicated crew chief who must be able to start, run and shut down its engines. Maintainers must be able to identify maintenance issues with C-130H2 engines.

NEW CASTLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Del. --

Visitors to the Delaware Air National Guard Base often overlook the tan-colored block of a building sitting alone behind the maintenance hangar at the top of Spruance Drive. Inside this windowless structure resides the base’s C-130H2 Hercules flight simulator.

The building’s interior is painted flat black. Encircled by whiteboards, conference tables and flat screen televisions is the large black box containing the simulator, its outer wall decorated with four oversize 166th Airlift Wing and Air National Guard patches.

Climb the three steps into the sim and enter a world of huge touch-screen TVs that display every dial, button, gauge and knob that exist in the cockpit of a real C-130H2 Hercules. The flight deck contains four stations – pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and navigator – the same as the actual aircraft. The yokes, throttles, seats, tiller and rudders are all from a decommissioned C-130, making the simulator experience as close to the real thing as possible.

“The notion that the base flight simulator is a big, expensive video game couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Steve Verdinelli, Flight Engineer Instructor. “Make no mistake, it’s an indispensable training tool for flight crews and maintainers, and a touchpoint for aspiring young aviators and influential community leaders.”

The 166th Airlift Wing’s flight simulator serves three main purposes: Building better air crews by boosting their cockpit proficiency; training maintenance personnel and dedicated crew chiefs in system diagnostics and engine run procedures; and as a community relations and recruitment catalyst.

The sim helps to train flight crews for all contingencies. Whether it’s a loss of an engine, structural component, gauge malfunction, or any other in-flight failure, the sim provides an opportunity to troubleshoot and overcome a problem in a non-life-threatening environment. Verdinelli, who monitors the sim during flight training, has at his fingertips a menu of pre-programmed in-flight emergencies, any number of which he can throw at the crew without warning. He then guides the crew through the problem-solving strategy.

The sim also provides an opportunity for maintainers and dedicated crew chiefs (who work hand-in-hand with the flight crews) to flesh out maintenance issues and to learn engine run procedures.

“The simulator offers an effective training instrument for our maintainers to enhance their proficiency in troubleshooting maintenance issues on the aircraft,” said Chief Master Sergeant Kevin L. Gordon, 166thMXS/CRF Superintendent. “It also helps teach our crew chiefs and maintainers engine run procedures.”

Finally, the sim is an interactive, hands-on experience for base visitors, including Center of Influence (COI) tours, aspiring young aviators, community leaders and other organizations. While tour groups visit many of the 166th Airlift Wing’s individual units, the sim provides them with a truly unforgettable experience.

The 166th Airlift Wing’s C-130H2 Hercules flight simulator is an essential training tool that brings to life the cornerstone of the mission: To provide world-class capability for the state and nation through the rapid mobilization and deployment of our C-130H2 Hercules aircraft and personnel worldwide to meet peacetime and wartime contingencies.