MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Iwakuni, Japan -- Looking over his shoulder, the F/A-18D pilot saw the jet behind him fire a single missle. He tried to dodge, but the explosion rocked the cockpit. Everything went black.
The canopy opened and the pilot stepped out of the simulator. Though this training mission ended negatively, the pilot may have picked up enough experience to handle the situation differently next time.
The simulator is a fully functional cockpit and canopy of an F/A-18 and reacts exactly the same way, according to Trey Morrison, simulator technician. The simulator's hanger is a windowless concrete building, and it sits on an elevated platform in the middle of the room. Next to the platform is a monitoring station where the users' actions can be monitored by simulator technicians.
Many different factors can be programmed into the simulator from the monitoring station such as bad weather, low visibility, mechanical failure or even hitting a bird.
"When a bird or missile hits the aircraft, the seat will jump to simulate impact," said Morrison.
To create a realistic sense of motion, the simulator has a 270-degree field of view projected on three screens in front of the operator.
"We put pilots new to Iwakuni in the simulator so they can get used to flying in the surrounding area," said Capt. David Park, VMFA-212 pilot.
The simulator familiarizes them with the surrounding area by projecting an accurate image in front of them.
Pilots stationed here who have not flown in 14 days must refresh all emergency procedures and instrument approach procedures in the simulator before flying again, said Park.
"If they want to improve their skills, simulators are a great way of doing it," Morrison said. "Practice makes perfect. They can find out exactly what their aircraft are capable of."
Ground crews also use the simulator for their training.
"They'll do their turn qualifications and practice every procedure they use on the real planes," Morrison said.
Whether refreshing skills or pushing the ?aircraft? to its limits, the simulator provides essential training without any danger.
"In the real world if you have a failure and you don't know what to do, lives could be lost," said Morrison. "In here, no one is going to get hurt."