By Blair Dupre
Fort Cavazos Public Affairs
FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Yoakum-Defrenn Army Heliport, the home of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, is one of the busiest heliports in the Army. While much of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade mission happens in the air, there is plenty of work being done on the ground, especially at the Flight Simulation Division of the Directorate of Aviation Operations.
The Flight Simulation Division at Fort Cavazos includes one CH-47(F) Transportable Flight Proficiency System, two AH-64 (E) Longbow Crew Trainers, one UH-60(L) Synthetic Flight Training System and one UH-60(M) Blackhawk Aircrew Trainer. Aviators are required to train in simulators a certain number of hours annually and the highly knowledgeable instructor/operators of the Flight Simulation Division ensure their time is not wasted.
Instructor/operators are able to create a multitude of mission scenarios for aircrews to train including unfavorable weather conditions and mechanical malfunctions. These elements provide aviators the opportunity to train for many different environments without leaving the ground. Practicing these scenarios in the simulators is a cost-effective and safe way to prepare aviators if something similar were to happen in the air.
“U.S. Army flight simulation training is important because it is efficient, effective and safe,” said Eric Csizmesia, the Flight Simulation Division chief. “Efficient because costs associated with operating rotary wing aircraft are extremely high. Fuel, maintenance, repair parts and repairing/replacing damaged aircraft are costly. Comparatively speaking, flight simulation has proven to be very cost efficient.
Flight simulation training is effective because we provide training in a controlled environment designed to improve aviator knowledge and hone their skills and combat capabilities,” he continued. “Flight simulation instructors/operators provide combat mission training and practice maneuvers not allowed in the aircraft and they are able to conduct training without the concern of aircraft damage or injury to aviators.”
In early July, the newest flight simulator, the AH-64E Guardian, was added to the Fort Cavazos Flight Simulation Division arsenal and is now in use supporting aviator training. Now that there are two AH-64 flight simulators, more aviators are able train simultaneously.
“Aviation units are in a lot of need for simulation,” said Jim Campbell, instructor/operator. “We only had one device … and it kind of shorted them on their training needs. Now that we have two devices, we can meet all of their training needs.”
The new AH-64E Guardian flight simulator has modernized features, mirroring that of the actual aircraft sitting on the airfield across the street from the flight simulation facility as well as upgraded software. One of the unique training capabilities the new device provides is an ability to fly side by side in the AH-64 flight simulations.
“Now that we have two devices, they’re actually connected,” Campbell said. “One aircrew can be in (the newest simulator) and one aircrew can be in the other one and they can fly a mission together as if there were two aircraft outside flying a mission. Having the two flight simulators linked is going to be more beneficial and will provide more realistic Aviator training.”
1st Lt. Harrison Ryder, Delta Troop, 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, and Warrant Officer 1 Kyle Davidson, Alpha Troop, 7th Squadron., 17th Cavalry Regiment, are new to the squadron and utilizing the flight simulators has aided them in brushing up on their basic combat skills.
“This (training) is a way to make sure that we are staying proficient before we start aircraft progression training, make sure we’re staying up on the basic stuff before we actually get back in the aircraft,” Ryder said.
“The flight simulation device allows me to mess up here, so I don’t mess up out there,” he said. “It’s been a while since either (Ryder or I) have been inside of an actual aircraft, so being able to do stuff like this helps us refresh on everything we’ve forgotten in the meantime.”
Csizmesia said flight simulation does not replace training in the actual aircraft, but it does hone aviator skills in all modes of flight, making it a vital component of aviator training.
“Regardless of an aviator’s experience level, there is always something new to learn,” he said. “Flight simulation devices at Fort Cavazos provide that training and do so in all environments and conditions.”