Virtual technology enhances training for aircrews Published Oct. 5, 2006 By Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo Air Force Print News HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructors at the 15th Operational Support Squadron are now using virtual technology to train aircrews in parachute hanging harness training. Most of today's aircrews are familiar with flight simulators. They are accepted as standard and are essential tools for training Air Force crews in conventional aircraft. In the simulated operations, new pilots acquire skills, and experienced pilots maintain their proficiency. Using the power of the computer programs, instructors find it easy to identify piloting problems and can safely repeat conditions that need improvement. Overall training costs are reduced and safety is improved, particularly in learning to cope with hazardous situations. But one thing the flight simulator cannot do is teach crews what to do when the bell sounds and it's time to egress the aircraft. That job falls to Staff Sgt. Christopher Ferguson and Parasim. Parasim is Hickam's latest simulator and provides a highly effective, low-cost parachute simulator tool for teaching, planning and practicing parachute flight and missions much like that of the flight simulators. "It's really important to give aircrews the tools of learning how to use a parachute safely," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Ferguson, a SERE instructor. With the Parasim simulator, a trainee completes many jumps in a short time, allowing the instructor to focus on specific points while correcting potential problems. Sergeant Ferguson said training is designed to hone the skills a student must learn, such as judging wind effect and maneuvering to a desired touchdown spot in the presence of wind and emergency procedures. "It gets your mind oriented on the checklist you need to do. When you are in that kind of situation you are not going to be naturally inclined to do the right thing," said 1st Lt. John Brantuk II, a pilot with the 535th Airlift Squadron. "The training helps to get that muscle memory going so you know what to do instinctively," he said. Through reality goggles that provide visual and audio input, students develop proficiency in handling parachute malfunctions, emergency procedures, steering and landing correctly without ever leaving the safety of the training room. "We take a lot of pride in what we do," Sergeant Ferguson said. "If they don't know what they are doing or the basics of what they are doing to get to the ground then they are going to get to the ground really hurt. "We think we are doing a pretty good job of training crews across the board so that doesn't happen," he said.