Written by Lt. Cmdr. Mike Cortese
In March of 2019, the Aviation Training Center qualified the first Coast Guard aviator to be trained in a fully-synthetic environment using flight simulation in lieu of actual aircraft instruction.
Lt. Cmdr. Andy Greenwood completed a re-designation course and successfully graduated as a “First Pilot” in the HC-144B aircraft. This accomplishment marks the first time a Coast Guard aviator qualified to fly an aircraft without ever leaving the ground.
This innovative training program, developed jointly by the Office of Aviation Forces, Force Readiness Command, and ATC, leverages ATC’s high fidelity flight simulator, a robust package of desk-top trainers, part-task trainers, and interactive courseware. The training program provides trainees a realistic experience in a low-risk environment and enables trainees to progress through the program with greater efficiency without sacrificing the skill level of graduates.
“This is truly a revolutionary approach and a peek into our vision of future aviation training for the Coast Guard” said Cmdr. Tom Cowell, chief of aviation training for ATC. “Besides the cost savings of nearly $200,000 per student, we are confident in the feedback that we’ve received that this synthetic-environment based training will produce a pilot for the fleet with skills and knowledge rivaling or exceeding that of pilots who completed the traditional re-qualification course.”
ATC is working toward migrating other courses to this training approach as other Coast Guard airframe simulators are upgraded to the latest technologies.
“The return on investment in simulators versus aircraft is unmatched – nearly 4-to-1 on average” adds Cmdr. Jon Sullivan, who oversees the flight training systems branch at ATC. “With this approach to training, a $1 million investment in simulator technology will pay for itself in a matter of months, not years. It will also enable us to meet increased throughput demands as Department of Defense and the Coast Guard face challenges retaining pilots.”