MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. --
A pilot takes to the skies traveling hundreds of miles an hour, covering great distances and once he has acquired his target, he places accurate fire on enemy objectives. While this may sound like a combat mission, the pilot has actually never left the ground.
After more than 15 years aboard the Air Station, the F/A-18 Weapons Tactics Trainer flight simulator retired Sept. 30 with more than 24,000 operational hours.
“The cockpit of the WTT is being sent to the National Museum of Naval Aviation located in Pensacola, Fla.,” said Rob Gwinn, the director of the F/A-18 training facility. “All usable spare parts will be shipped to Kuwait to support the WTT's sister device.”
To ensure the pilots’ safety and to keep costs at a minimum, flight simulators are utilized throughout the Marine Corps.
“All pilots are required to use flight simulator training.” said Gwinn. “It’s just more cost effective to train in a simulator instead of an actual jet as there’s no fuel used or wear and tear on the jet.”
“Flight simulator training allows us to make mistakes and learn from them for every mission that we do,” said Col. Gregg Brinegar, commander of Marine Aircraft Group 31.
The 3-story dome that houses the WTT will be recycled using the Air Station’s recycling center, which will make room for the new flight simulators.
“The operational parts inside the WTT will be used again in other aircraft,” said Chad Santoro, a flight simulator operator. “The money made from recycling the dome will be given back to the Air Station.”
“Technology changes and the WTT was built 15 years ago. It’s time to upgrade to a better system,” said Bob Spidel, the assistant site manager.
The new smaller, more efficient flight simulator replacing the WTT is the Tactical Operational Flight Trainer, or TOFT, according to Spidel.
“The TOFT is much smaller and costs 90 percent less than the cost of a WTT,” Gwinn said. “The operational costs go down 40 percent as well.”
“I’m excited about the TOFT, because it gives us a more realistic representation from the air and the ground,” Brinegar said. “It allows us to fly with the latest software releases.”
The Air Station currently has only one TOFT, but according to Gwinn those numbers are scheduled to increase to two TOFTs by 2008 and four TOFTs by 2009.