Learning to Fly - Aviation Adds New Flight Simulator

View inside the new OU Aviation flight simulator

Aviation students had a new tool with which to learn the basics of becoming a pilot this spring as the OU Department of Aviation launched into full use of its new Redbird Flight Simulator.

The simulator is an FAA-approved Advanced Aircrew Training Device that replicates the performance aspects of each aircraft that OU Aviation flies, from the sounds a student hears while flying to the unique motions that are particular to each type of aircraft.

“Simulation is important in aviation training,” said Ken Carson, director of the Department of Aviation. “Simulators have taken aviation training and safety to the next level. It reduces cost because you’re not flying the airplanes, and it’s always available 24/7.

"You immerse yourself in the mission and, as far as your brain is concerned, you’re really there doing the mission."

“Our sim requirements revolve around Beginning Instrument Flight Training. You have to learn the instrument cross check, which requires you to fly into the clouds, where it’s totally gray, and you have to keep the airplane upright and navigate based on the instruments on your control panel without the benefits of being able to see through any windows.”

The first 10-15 hours of instrument training for each student now takes place in the Redbird simulator.

“You must trust your instruments,” Carson said. “You have to train the human body to do that because, physiologically, the fluid in your inner ear canal starts moving with the motion of the airplane, and you can get spatially disoriented really quickly in the clouds without visual cues. The flight simulator helps students develop trust in the instrument cross check, so they’re not wasting a lot of flight hours learning that.”

The simulator allows instructors to swap out the instrument panel being used in just a few minutes so they can replicate the flight controls of every type of plane that Aviation students will fly during training at OU.

“It’s a nice platform with 190-degree visuals,” Carson said, “which allows us to do visual training with it, too.”

In addition to replicating the controls and feel of a real aircraft, the simulator can also replicate the runways of every airport in the U.S. and around the world, giving each flight an added sense of realism.

“The validation of the sim is that you go into it and it feels like a real flight,” Carson said. “You immerse yourself in the mission and, as far as your brain is concerned, you’re really there doing the mission. It’s a great training platform.”

To learn more about the OU Department of Aviation, visit aviation.ou.edu.

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Myk Mahaffey

Michael Mahaffey holds degrees in journalism and psychology. He is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience writing for print and digital publications, including award-winning coverage of the rodeo industry. In his spare time, he writes fiction, in addition to tinkering with graphic design and photography.