BOISE -- A $14 million flight simulator is helping helicopter pilots with Idaho Army National Guard train for flight, while allowing them to stay on the ground.
Chief Warrant Officer II (CW2) Fernando Soto with the 1-183 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion has been flying Apache helicopters since 2008.
“I just got promoted,” Soto said. “So I am pretty proud of that.”
KTVB chatted with Soto as he entered the Apache helicopter simulator to train at Gowen Field.
The simulator gives Soto and other pilots the chance to do anything they could in an actual Apache aircraft, but also much more.
“It gives a chance to try out stuff that might be too dangers to try out in the aircraft,” he explained.
The simulator works much like a video game, but is much more intense.
Inside, you can feel the rumbling from gunfire, and the simulator shakes you.
If you get motion sickness (something these pilots deal with) then you might want to think twice before getting behind the controls.
Soto says he typically uses the simulator once a week for two hours because he has simulation training requirements that he must meet.
“It just gives you a chance to get better at firing with the weapons systems,” he said.
Major Bryan Madden does the scheduling for the simulator and tells KTVB that there are nearly 60 Idaho National Guard Apache pilots. Each of them must get their simulation training requirements in.
Madden blocks out about 80 hours a week and the said the simulator accounts for about 20 percent of their flight time requirements.
“It really helps out and makes you comfortable when you actually get into situations where it’s dangerous that you might not bring that aircraft home,” said Madden.
The pilots face obstacles in the simulator they would not likely face while training in southern Idaho.
“Our guys come in here and they can do things like emergency training where the instructor can take away the tail rotor,” said Madden. “Or we can do gunnery where we have unlimited ammo and ammo is expensive. Here we can shoot as much as we want.”
Madden expresses how essential the simulator is, not only for pilots but for Idahoans too.
“The pilots that fly this on a day to day basis are extremely safe out flying over the public because they train in here,” he said.
Remember that weather inversion Idaho had?
Well, Madden said the Apache pilots couldn’t fly, so naturally the simulator was used quite a bit.
Soto feels that the simulator adds to the perks of his job. “It’s an honor to be flying this aircraft and I know I probably wouldn’t want to be flying any other aircraft.”
The Apache helicopter simulator is also portable so that if the Idaho Army National Guard were to get deployed overseas, the simulator would go along with the unit.