|New simulators huge advancement
New simulators, a new outlying field, and plans by the county for an aviation
park nearby make the future look bright for Naval Air Station Whiting Field...
It will take a year for all of them to arrive, but the new high-tech simulators going to
Naval Air Station Whiting Field promise to provide students with the most realistic
flight experience ever without having to leave the ground - on a par with the
simulators used for fixed-wing aircraft.
The first of the new simulators, a Level 6, was unveiled in late February to dozens of
Navy, corporate and media participants in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Building
2946, unofficially called the old T-34 sim area - even though there have been no T-
34 simulators for at least five years. The building has undergone a renovation to
handle the new simulators.
“This simulator represents a significant technology advancement and upgrade to
naval aviator training tools.,” said Cmdr. Aaron Beattie, Training Air Wing 5 rotary
simulator integration lead officer. “It improves our ability to train student aviators in
night vision environments and the simulator displays are a vast improvement over the
1980s technology our current simulators afford.”
NAS Whiting will receive 10 new simulators, three Level 6 and seven Level 7, along
with a central control unit that will allow instructors to link machines to simulate
formation flying and allowing students to communicate with one another.
The Level 7 devices are on contract for delivery beginning next month and ending in
February 2020, with the central control station scheduled for acceptance in July 2019.
“The new training applications these simulators provide will increase the students’
field of view, night vision and all weather training - features we couldn’t do before in
the previous simulator,” Beattie said.
The full-motion Level 7 simulators all will be housed in Building 2005, unofficially
called the helicopter simulator building. The combination of Level 6 and 7 simulators
will increase NAS Whiting Field's training capacity, Navy officials said.
Simulators will give a student the feel of actually flying through the use of a realistic
cockpit and a wide screen that displays what a pilot would see in actual flight, all while
remaining safely on the ground. The idea is to allow students to make mistakes in the
simulator, rather than in the unforgiving environment of actual flight.
A two-seater that can be flown from either position, the simulator prepares students
to acquire a range of skills, including the ability to handle in-flight emergencies and
handle unexpected weather. If they make a mistake, the worst that can happen is a
The more realistic the simulator, the better the experience for the student. The
stationary Level 6 has seat queuing vibration and a field of view 180 degrees by 40
degrees. The Level 7 simulators are full-motion with a field of view that's 220 degrees
by 65 degrees.
The simulators can mimic any time of day and give students challenging weather and
air traffic situations. One of the key capabilities in the upgrade will be the central
control station. It will allow instructors to link all 10 simulators in a single virtual
environment. Significantly, student aviators will be able to fly aircraft in formation and
in an instrument training environment, with the added feature of student aviators
being able to communicate with one another to more closely simulate their flying
The new simulators are a major step forward for training. The ones that students
have been using are 40-year-old simulators, modified over the years to keep up with
technological changes. The result has been simulators that are each a bit different.
They have reached their limit of adaptability.
The Pensacola News Journal reported that Navy Cmdr. Kenny Kerr joked that the old
flight simulators are like Frankenstein's monster. The new ones are “a huge leap
forward,” he said.
Media participants at the ribbon-cutting got a chance to try out the new Level 6 TH-
57 Sea Ranger helicopter simulator. On this day, Marine Maj. Ron Chino, rotary wing
training officer for Chief of Naval Air Training, was sitting in the right seat as he
demonstrated the simulator. One of the first things a student learns is how to hover in
the TH-57. Step by step a student is able to focus on one aspect of flight at a time,
including keeping it level.
The graphics displayed on the screen represent NAS Whiting and its outlying fields.
The recently opened Site X in Santa Rosa County has not yet been included, but the
old OLF 8, which is now owned by Escambia County and targeted for development, is
still represented. One of the scenarios shows Pensacola Bay with an amphibious
assault ship so students can practice landing and taking off at sea. Scenarios can
change at the punch of button.
The simulator can be used in either the TH-57B variant or the TH-57C variant, the
current model of the training helicopter.
The new simulators were provided by Flight Safety Systems International of Denver,
Frasca International of Urbana, Ill., and Aechelon Technology of San Francisco. The
simulators are owned by the contractors, who charge the Navy for a set amount of
instruction hours. The simulators were provided under an $11 million budget item for
Navy classroom and simulator helicopter training, officials said.
“Our mission is to provide unparalleled training to our student aviators,” said Hector
Zarate, president of FlightSafety Service Corp. “We’re thrilled to have been given an
opportunity to be a part, and making students ready to defend the nation - that’s
what this is all about.”
For the past 30 years, Training Air Wing Five has trained all United States Navy,
Marine Corps, and Coast Guard helicopter pilots at Naval Air Station Whiting Field. In
1981, the Navy transitioned to the instrument rated TH-57C Sea Ranger platform,
which included flight simulators. Those original simulators have been used to train
pilots since that time.
In December 2014, the Navy decided to upgrade the TH-57 simulators with new
devices as part of a larger goal of modernizing the entire helicopter ground training
About 500 helicopter pilots earn their naval flight wings at Whiting every year.
Whiting trains all Navy, Marine and Coast Guard pilots, as well as pilots from allied
nations, using the TH-57 Sea Ranger. Sixty percent of all Navy and Marine Corps
primary flight training worldwide also takes place at Whiting, which has three
helicopter training squadrons.
The Pentagon is planning to replace the TH-57 by 2023, and at least three defense
contractors - Bell, Leonardo and Airbus - are expected to vie for the contract to
provide the training helicopters for the Navy.
Navy launches trainer competition
The Navy has formally launched a competition to replace its fleet of TH-57B/C Sea
Ranger training helicopters for a contract of more than $900 million to provide 130
helicopters over a five-year period for the Advanced Helicopter Training System,
The Navy is looking for a commercially available aircraft, and the proposal is
expected to draw at least three proposers: Bell, Leonardo Helicopter and Airbus
Helicopter. The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is expected to award a single
firm-fixed-price contract during the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 - sometime
between October and December 2019. It would be through a base and up to four
options, according to the Request for Proposals. The entire fleet would be purchased
The Navy is also requiring a digital health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) for
ground-based display of information to aid in predictive maintenance and reduce
sustainability cost. The HUMS system should store data generated from 24
continuous flying hours and provide diagnostics and health monitoring of drivetrain
components, rotor components, engines and engine performance, absorbers,
hydraulic systems, electrical systems, hydro-mechanical and electro-mechanical
systems, and for structural usage monitoring/regime recognition, according to the
The Sea Ranger, an aircraft based on the Bell Jet Ranger 206, was procured by the
Navy between 1981 and 1985. The Jet Ranger is a staple in civilian aviation circles,
and drew the interest of the Navy during the Vietnam War. It was first procured in
Leonardo is expected to propose its TH119 single-engine trainer, Airbus Helicopters
its H135 light twin and Bell, the maker of the TH-57, is expected to offer the 407GXi.
- Gulf Coast Reporters League
Whiting: Key to military pilot training
Naval Air Station Whiting Field is one of the Navy's two primary pilot training bases
and the busiest aviation complex in the world.
It accounts for more than 1 million flight operations annually, more than Atlanta-
Hartsfield, the busiest civilian airport in the United States.
Established in 1943, the 4,000-acre complex is north of Milton in Santa Rosa County.
It’s comprised of two main airfields, the North Field and South Field, and 12 outlying
landing fields, including the new Site X, encompassing almost 18,000 acres across
four counties in Southeast Alabama and Northwest Florida.
It’s the home of Training Air Wing Five, which has three primary fixed-wing and three
advanced helicopter squadrons to train aviators from the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast
Guard, Air Force, and allied nations. The wing has 148 T-6 Texan II aircraft for fixed-
wing training and 113 TH-57 helicopters for rotary wing training. Some 1,200 student
aviators are trained each year, including more than 500 helicopter aviators.
Combined there are some 1 million annual flight operations.
The wing is responsible for 120,000 to 160,000 flight hours annually, an estimated
43 percent of the Chief of Naval Air Training Command's total flight time.
More than 60 percent of all primary flight training is performed at Whiting Field, along
with 100 percent of advanced U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard rotary
winged training. Roughly 15 percent of all Navy flight hours are performed at NAS
Whiting Field annually and about 11 percent of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast
Guard flight time worldwide.
The county over the years has purchased easements surrounding the base to
ensure it is never threatened by encroachment. It was one of those land purchases
that led to the development of Whiting Aviation Park.
- Gulf Coast Reporters League
Park construction to begin soon
Construction could begin late this summer or early fall on Whiting Aviation Park, just
outside Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
The plan for the 300-acre park is to create an aviation maintenance, repair and
overhaul depot for major and minor work for military and civilian aircraft.
The aviation park idea has been around since 2002, but it wasn't until July 2018 that
Triumph Gulf Coast, a non-profit that distributes recovery money from the 2010 BP
oil spill, gave preliminary approval for a grant of $8.5 million for the park, contingent
upon completion of a term sheet. That’s been done and a contract is now in hand.
Moffett/Nicholas is the engineering firm that will perform the design phase.
Funding will be used to improve 40 acres of industrial park land outside the fence
adjacent to the Navy base. The Triumph money will be used for infrastructure –
electric, water, sewer, storm water retention and more.
Economic development officials hope the park will help Whiting’s military training
missions by providing the option of having work on aircraft done nearby instead of
flying planes elsewhere.
The park is industrial zoned. Details of the agreement for use of the 6,000-foot
runway are still being worked out. The runway has tower capabilities thanks to the
military training mission at Whiting.
- Gulf Coast Reporters League
The Army trains aviators at Fort Rucker, to the northeast of Milton in Southeast
Student aviators there use the TH-67 Creek, a Bell Model 206B, and the UH-72
Lakota, built by Airbus Helicopters in Columbus, Miss.