Wednesday, April 04, 2012

New Auburn University simulator enhances flight students' experience

Credit: Courtesy Auburn University
 Auburn University student Joseph Young prepares for takeoff in a new Fidelity/Motus 622i Advanced Aviation Training Device, a full-motion flight simulator that can be programmed to replicate a variety of aircraft. Auburn officials recently dedicated and named the machine the Solon Dixon Simulator in honor of Solon Dixon, a 1926 graduate of Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University.

Despite heavy fog and some turbulence, Auburn University flight student Joseph Young carefully maneuvers his aircraft onto the runway for a smooth landing Wednesday after flying a quick loop in the air.

In reality, though, the weather conditions are manufactured, and Young hasn’t left the confines of the school’s facility in the back of the Auburn Center for Developing Industries. Young has just taken the Solon Dixon Simulator, the university’s newest and most realistic flight simulator, for a successful spin.

“What I like about the flight simulator is the realism that it simulates and the ability to be in any weather situation — clear and sunny, calm winds or thunderstorm, horrible conditions — something you never really want to intentionally get yourself into as a pilot,” said Young, a junior double-majoring in flight management and supply chain management. “It lets you portray what you could potentially run into, and it lets you do a normal flight as well.”

The school has been using the flight simulator for about a year now, but it was recently dedicated and named in honor of Solon Dixon, a 1926 graduate of Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University. Dixon worked in forestry management and is the namesake of Auburn’s Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in Andalusia, but he began his career as a flight instructor at API. The Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation contributed a $200,000 gift that helped make the simulator possible.

The university typically uses simulators to supplement students’ in-flight training, but the school’s old simulators don’t come close to matching the Solon Dixon Simulator’s realistic feel.

“This one is just leaps and bounds ahead — not only the visuals, but the motion. It feels just like a real airplane,” Young said. “That’s the beauty of this simulator.”

In addition to the enhanced feel, the simulator can operate as three different types of aircraft: single-engine piston, multi-engine piston and the Cessna 500 business jet.

“Because of that versatility, it has widespread application across all of our students,” said Dale Watson, director of aviation education at Auburn University.

While the simulator can fabricate certain weather conditions, it can also simulate in-flight mechanical issues and create disorientation for the pilot. Nick Lenczycki, Auburn’s assistant chief flight instructor, demonstrated the disorientation training by making the simulator lean hard to the left while Young’s controls indicated a normal incline.

Flight conditions can be altered by a computer nearby the flight simulator.

Watson said the simulator will better prepare student pilots as they graduate from Auburn.

“It’s very realistic compared to what we’ve had … and it’s a great preparation for their first jobs as professional pilots,” Watson said.


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