November 24, 2004 (by Master Sgt. Terry Nelson) - He said he was in trouble when a loud bang blew his feet off the rudder pedals and bright lights flashed in his night vision goggles; he had lost the engine on his F-16. Capt. Michael Matesick, a former 421st Fighter Squadron pilot, recalls...
...in the May 2004 edition of The Combat Edge magazine, the ordeals of a near fateful night while flying an Operation Iraqi Freedom sortie out of Al Udeid AB, Qatar.
Although Captain Matesick was able to safely land his F-16, he wrote that the biggest lesson he learned was that things happen quickly at night over hostile territory.
"I didn't have time to stop and think about the basics of flying a jet with no useable thrust I had to rely on training and experience," Captain Matesick explained. "Had it not been for the training flying simulated flame-out (FO) approaches at home (Hill) and for the valuable experience gained from instructors in the simulator, the night would have concluded differently."
The task of providing pilots with simulator training in the 388th Fighter Wing belongs to three simulator instructors and a project officer at the Aircrew Training Device facility.
They instruct and train pilots on an array of emergency operating situations such as aborting an aircraft, handling engine failure, experiencing low thrust on takeoff or dealing with overheating and fire.
"It is our job to train pilots to handle emergencies, so we don't lose pilots or jets," said Mr. Eddie Devlin, ATD project officer. "We have the best trained F-16 pilots in the world; it is our job to enssure pilots can complete their missions successfully."
In addition to training pilots on emergency procedures, instructors provide training on instruments, air-to-air tactics and air-to-ground tactics. Instructors can program various types of adverse weather conditions, including fog, rain and snow, as well as nighttime flying. This allows pilots to train using their instruments, so when confronted with adverse weather they know how to respond.
"By far the most valuable training provided by the simulator instructors is in executing emergency procedures and instrument flying," said Capt. Nick Evans, chief of wing training. "We cannot recreate airborne emergencies, weather or night flying when we want to; this is where the simulator provides invaluable training."
The simulator instructors, who have more than a hundred years of combined flying and simulator experience, include Mr. Dean Wagner, a retired Air Force major who flew in F-4s and F-16s; Mr. Fred Drake, a retired Air Force major who flew the F-16; and Mr. Les Long, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who flew the F-16 and is a former 4th Fighter Squadron commander and Mr. Devlin.
Mr. Wagner and Mr. Drake were recently recognized by Col. Charlie Lyon, 388th FW commander, for surpassing the 15-year mark as simulator instructors.
The instructors train pilots using the four unit training devices (F-16 simulators) assigned to the wing. The total value of the simulators exceeds $5 million. The wing is currently in the process of leasing four new simulators which should be on-line in the spring of 2007. The base is currently involved in a $3.5 million renovation project to support the new simulators.
The improved simulators will allow pilots to train as though flying together rather than alone.
"The new simulators will be a huge improvement over the current model," said Captain Evans. "The simulators will be linked to ones at other bases, allowing multiple and various types of aircraft to fly a "Virtual Flag" exercise. This is a huge improvement over the current model, which only allows one pilot to act out scenarios.
"There is no substitute for experience and flying hours, especially when working air-to-air and air-to-ground tactics, but the sims we are getting in a couple years are definitely a step in the right direction," said Captain Evans.