Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blue skies or emergency - Jacksonville University’s new simulator puts aviation students in pilot's seat

Pilot Patrick Jones lined up the Bombardier CRJ-700 airliner with the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport runway visible out the cockpit window, as co-pilot Jesse Gutenberg monitored the videoscreen gauges.

As the approaching runway filled the twin-engine jet’s window, a screen displayed a warning and an alarm sounded — fire in the auxiliary power unit.

The simulation is part a $500,000 training device at Jacksonville University’s Davis Aviation Center.

“Would you guys go around or continue to the airport right now? We are five miles out,” Assistant Professor Chad Kendall said as Gutenberg tapped off the alarm.

“I’m continuing,” Jones said. “It would shut down automatically.”

With this replica of a 70-seat commercial jet cockpit, students who want to fly the friendly skies as a career have the ultimate videogame to learn on. It’s the next step up from the Cessna eight-seater Jones received his multi-engine commercial certification on in the university’s aviation program.

“We get to see a faster aircraft with more complex systems long before we actually try to get hired for a job,” the 23-year-old Argyle resident said. “It makes the transition easier for us when it comes time to jump into our career.”

When alarms go off to simulate an emergency, it feels “extremely real,” said Gutenberg. He is working toward a multi-engine rating as he trains to be a U.S. Navy pilot. Part of the training is getting comfortable with high-tech instruments.

“It is a little bit overwhelming because you do have those screens in front of you. You want to look at those screens,” the 28-year-old Avondale man said. “It’s one of those training things. You have to know to look up and look down.”

JU’s aviation center’s four-year degree program trains and certifies commercial or military pilots, air traffic controllers and aviation executives. The new simulator doesn’t offer motion simulation. But it does have digital navigation displays, jet engine sound effects and a wrap-around videoscreen with realistic views of the world moving by.

The university worked with Aerosim Technologies to build the simulator, the first of its kind in a higher-education institution in Northeast Florida, center director Juan Merkt said.

It duplicates the regional jet most students will see in their first job and means a better chance of getting hired by an airline, Merkt said.

“This is not only the most realistic tool we could bring to the program in terms of being able to apply for the first time what they learn in the classroom; now they are able to actually fly it,” Merkt said.


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