McChord simulators keep pilots ready

Robert Callahan, C-17 instructor pilot, observes Capt. Brittany Bean (left) and Capt. Hatton Updike (right), both 4th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilots, during a quarterly training session in a C-17 Globemaster III simulator Jan. 26, 2017 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Using the simulator gives pilots an opportunity to practice on things pilots can’t accomplish in the aircraft, but with a great level of realism. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Divine Cox)

Robert Callahan, C-17 instructor pilot, observes Capt. Brittany Bean (left) and Capt. Hatton Updike (right), both 4th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilots, during a quarterly training session in a C-17 Globemaster III simulator Jan. 26, 2017 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Using the simulator gives pilots an opportunity to practice on things pilots can’t accomplish in the aircraft, but with a great level of realism. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Divine Cox)

Capt. Brittany Bean (right)  and Capt. Hatton Updike (middle), both 4th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilots, receive a pre-training brief from Robert Callahan, C-17 instructor pilot, during a quarterly training session Jan. 26, 2017 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Before entering the simulator, pilots go through a pre-brief with a pilot instructor to prepare for their simulated mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Divine Cox)

Capt. Brittany Bean (right) and Capt. Hatton Updike (middle), both 4th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilots, receive a pre-training brief from Robert Callahan, C-17 instructor pilot, during a quarterly training session Jan. 26, 2017 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Before entering the simulator, pilots go through a pre-brief with a pilot instructor to prepare for their simulated mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Divine Cox)

A C-17 Globemaster III flight simulator sits ready for pilots to board before a training Jan. 26, 2017 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. McChord C-17 pilots maintain current and ready for any mission at a moment’s notice by conducting regular training throughout the year in the simulator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Divine Cox)

A C-17 Globemaster III flight simulator sits ready for pilots to board before a training Jan. 26, 2017 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. McChord C-17 pilots maintain current and ready for any mission at a moment’s notice by conducting regular training throughout the year in the simulator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Divine Cox)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.— --

For C-17 Globemaster III pilots, training in the aircraft is ideal, but most of their training is performed on the ground in one of four C-17 simulators located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

McChord C-17 pilots maintain current and ready for any mission at a moments notice by conducting recurring training throughout the year in the simulator.

“The purpose of the simulator is to accomplish initial and recurring training items at a much cheaper cost then operating the airplane itself,” said Capt. James Radford, 62nd Operations Support Squadron instructor pilot.  "Using the simulator gives us an opportunity to practice on things we cannot accomplish in the aircraft and with a great level of realism.”

Radford said using the simulator for training is a huge advantage for the pilots.

“Not only is it significantly cheaper, but we can experience for different scenarios, and it is much safer for all of us,” said Radford. “The simulator gives us a chance to go through a problem in real time so if it happens in real life, we will be able to rely on our training to fix the problem.”

In the simulator, the pilots accomplish their quarterly “phase sim”. The phase sim is training that goes over malfunctions, emergencies, and things that can’t be accomplished in the actual aircraft that’s deemed important for crew safety.

In terms of recurring training, the pilots accomplish training events both on a quarterly and semiannual basis for aerial refueling, assault landings, and emergency procedures.

“Safety is the number one rule when it comes to flying,”said Robert Callahan, C-17 instructor pilot. “Every 18 months these pilots have a check ride and the purpose of that is to evaluate the crews’ ability to fly in poor weather as well as accomplishing three engine procedures with a certain level of competence in those emergencies.”

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 general idea of what the training might include, they don't fully know, allowing the element of surprise to drive their training.

“We like to throw curve balls at them every once in a while to keep the pilots honest,” said Callahan. “We want them to be confident in their abilities and know that if the unexpected was to happen, they will be prepared to take proper action and handle the situation as safe as possible.”

In addition to training our Air Force C-17 pilots, McChord hosts about 350 international students per year for simulator training.

Radford stated that training in the simulator is as true to real life as you going to get without flying the real aircraft.

“The C-17 simulator is absolutely invaluable to us,” said Radford. “Its full motion and you get the same sensations as the real thing. The simulator does a real good job in replicating how the aircraft reacts to emergency situations.

If you prove efficient in the simulator, then you can go out and fly the real thing. It is that good, and because it is that good, we are allowed to accomplish our recurring training in it.”

The realistic training the C-17 simulator provides pilots ensures all Team McChord pilots, continue to fly safely and effectively to accomplish the 62nd Airlift Wing mission.