By Senior Airman Benjamin N. Valmoja, 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs   Originally published January 18, 2019
Click here to view the article in its original format


With technology ever-evolving, the Air Force believes its training should too. Virtual reality, or VR, is growing quickly, and Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, is hopping on the bandwagon.

‘Death by PowerPoint’ is a term known by many, and those who teach with it know the shortfalls it can come with. With the enhanced opportunities for education virtual reality provides, instructor pilots from the 87th Flying Training Squadron, like Capt. Jason Dark, are looking to boost traditional classroom lessons on aircraft maneuvers and provide a better course for students.

“We aren’t trying to replace anything,” Dark said. “Students will still fly simulations, we will still have lessons as usual, but we will implement these headsets to help show some things rather than tell. We’re trying to supplement what we’ve got.”

The virtual reality solution is a polished, home-brewed collection of 360-degree videos from inside a Laughlin T-38C Talon, showing the instructors performing various maneuvers. Instead of scrolling though slideshows that students would need to visualize on their own, the headsets provide an entirely new perspective and sense of place in the aircraft early on in their training.

“It’s light-years ahead of the ground training we’re used to,” Dark said. “We want to get more headsets so we can get them into student’s hands fast.”

And so far, the students that have tried both methods wish this VR training got to them sooner.

“You can read about all the maneuvers in the training documents, but to actually see from inside the cockpit what it looks like is super beneficial,” said 2nd Lt. Daniel Nama, 47th Flying Training Wing student pilot. “Instead of just reading something and thinking, ‘okay, I think this is what they’re talking about,’ it allows you put the words from the book into a visual setting, which I think anybody would learn better from.”

With the hard work the 87th FTS Red Bulls have been putting into this project, Laughlin is on track to be the first of the Air Education and Training Command’s specialized undergraduate pilot training bases to fully implement the homegrown video training.

Dark said he has many long hours of video processing, equipment ordering and work left to do before the program is finally wheels-up, however, the amount of work on the front end will pave the way for the future combat aviators of the Air Force.