C-17 pilots train hard

(Via Ho’okele News)

Lt. Col. Gregg Johnson, 535th Airlift Squadron commander, banks left in a C-17 Globemaster III simulator. (See additional photo on page A-5).

Lt. Col. Gregg Johnson, 535th Airlift Squadron commander, banks left in a C-17 Globemaster III simulator. (See additional photo on page A-5).

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez

15th Wing Public Affairs

For C-17 Globemaster III pilots, training doesn’t only occur in the sky. In fact, much of their training is done on the ground to ensure that when they fly, they’re prepared to deal with any issue that may come their way.

Hickam C-17 pilots maintain their preparedness by conducting recurring training throughout the year. This includes computer-based training, monthly exams on basic flight knowledge, self-paced instrument simulator sorties for newer pilots, and quarterly phase training in a C-17 simulator, a 30-foot machine that gives pilots a realistic feeling of flight.

“Using [the simulator] gives us a great opportunity to practice our flying and improve overall,” said Lt. Col. Gregg Johnson, 535th Airlift Squadron (AS) commander. “It really helps build our confidence, whether you’re a pilot like me who’s been doing this for a while, or a newer pilot. In fact, it’s very important for our newer guys.”

Johnson and copilot 1st Lt. Taylor Ragland, 535th AS, recently completed a phase 1-day 1 training together in the C-17 simulator.

“The simulator gives us a chance to go through a problem in real time so if it happened in real life, we would be able to rely on our training to fix the problem,” Ragland said.

Before entering the simulator, pilots go through a pre-brief with a pilot instructor to prepare for their simulated mission. While the pilots have a good idea what the training might include, they don’t fully know, allowing the element of surprise to drive their training.

A C-17 Globemaster III flight simulator sits ready for pilots to board.

The simulator, sitting on hydraulic legs, moves with the motion of flight conducted inside to give a real sense of flying. The detailed landscapes and weather patterns challenge the pilots, but pilot instructors also inject different challenges and emergencies during training. Most emergencies that are practiced in the simulator can’t be practiced in the air, such as engine fires, hydraulic failure and enemy threats.

“The scenarios test our decision-making skills and ability to identify issues or emergencies,” Ragland said. “We then run through our procedures to solve the problem using checklists.”

According to Ragland, the C-17 simulator program saves the Air Force $20,000 per flight hour as opposed to the pilots flying in-air missions for the same training. This doesn’t include maintenance costs, manning and time. It costs $25 million to construct the simulator and its facility, and it pays for itself every six months in fuel savings alone.

Additionally, the simulator has the ability to link up with C-17 simulators at other bases to conduct joint-mission exercises and can even link up with simulators for KC-135 Stratotankers to practice in-air refueling.

“The ability to link up with simulators from other bases gives us more of a real-time practice because there are other pilots you’re interacting with, so you can’t just press pause in the [simulator],” Ragland said.

The realistic training the C-17 simulator provides to pilots ensures Hickam’s fleet continues to fly safely and effectively to accomplish the 15th Wing mission.

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