SAFB utilizes advanced VR technologies to train flight, electrical systems students

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Innovative training technologies such as virtual reality flying systems have been used by the Air Force for several years, but now with mixed reality advances, they have become even more realistic.

You may think you have a fear of heights, but there’s only one way to find out for sure: test it out.

“Have them put the headset on and walkthrough, go up the elevator, go out on the plank, pick up tools, toss them off,” 366th Training Squadron electrical systems apprentice course instructor Tech. Sgt. David Harris said.

That’s how electrical systems students who will be climbing tall utility poles, among other duties, are quickly finding out if they’re on the right career path or not, through a virtual reality fear of heights assessment.

“What’s happening is they’re getting out to the field and we’re finding out that they’re afraid to climb above 60 feet,” 366th Training Squadron electrical systems training manager Johnnie Williams said.

This is just one way Sheppard Air Force Base is incorporating VR and the latest alternative, more advanced solution, mixed reality, which makes it even more realistic.

80th Flying Training Wing students are getting hands-on practice flying a plane, just without the plane itself.

“Traditionally, the way we would practice is a chair flying session with that, they would take a plunger, we would sit in front of a piece of paper and we would literally practice in our head,” Mixed Reality Tech expert 1st Lt. Charles Boynton said.

“We can actually show them here how fast they do move and where, angularity, where they would need to look in order to find and pick up those references whether it be on the ground or in the air,” 80th Flying Training Wing director of strategic initiatives Lt. Col. Michael Schmidt said.

Not only does virtual reality serve as another way to train, but it also saves the Air Force and its Airmen more time in the long run.

“It’s about creating pilots better, creating more, and creating them faster, but we won’t sacrifice the better part to make them faster or make more of them,” Boynton said.

“If we see indicators that they might have a fear of heights we can recommend that they go talk to mental health and get evaluated by a medical doctor for a fear of heights,” Harris said. “We can get them out of this career field where they don’t have to climb.”

Virtual reality systems have been around many years, but as they become even more realistic, they help cut costs of actual flights and also screen students earlier so they can change career paths if necessary.

These virtual reality training techniques are pretty cool to see in person.

You’ll have a chance to do that, and try it out yourself Oct. 26–27 for Sheppard’s Air Show.

For more information on details, click here.

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