Dyess Air Force Base, Texas --
Typically, Air Force training involves a certified instructor providing hands-on training to another Airman who needs to increase their skillsets. As the capabilities of technology have continued to increase, so have the training techniques of the Air Force.
Airmen within the 7th Component Maintenance Squadron’s Engine Test Cell demonstrated the ability of using an Engine Test Stand virtual reality system for future training purposes at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Aug. 5, 2020.
“I have always been looking for ways to improve daily operations at the test cell as everyone gained valuable training,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Ferguson, 7th Component Maintenance Squadron B-1B Lancer production superintendent. “I believe that this is the missing tool to get our engine run personnel ready so they are prepared for anything that they might run into during their operations.”
As the section works to bring their virtual training system to life, they showcased how much time and money it will save and how beneficial it will be for potential scenarios.
The current training time for an Airman to receive their engine run certification is up to six months as they work alongside a crew of four Airmen plus the certifier. There are currently 960 man-hours spent per Airman trained and 3,840 man-hours per crew with current operations. This training system is predicted to save approximately $768,000.
According to Ferguson, the virtual reality system is expected to reduce the training time to two weeks which will cut the training time by 91.5 percent. The ETS training system will reduce the amount of training hours by approximately 880 man-hours per person.
The VR system training includes a fully-guided walk through, partially guided training and unguided trainings.
The VR capabilities will also enable Airmen to train on emergency procedures that they were not able to before.
“We have never been able to fully train on emergency procedures for engine test cell runs before,” Ferguson said. “By giving them the ability to experience an emergency firsthand, it gives the Airmen the ability to reduce their reaction time and boost their capabilities which will save time, money and possibly lives.”
To show how effective the VR training system is, one of the developers, with no hands-on engine test stand experience, went through the virtual training and completed several in-person tasks.
“I felt comfortable throughout the process because of the muscle memory I developed while using the VR system,” said Matt Hayden, Spectral Labs lead software engineer. “Completing several tasks in-person is important because it shows that the program really works and it verifies that we got things right from the developing side.
“A couple of advantages of having the program are decreasing the wear and tear on the actual equipment, and the VR trainer is always available,” Hayden added. “It also doesn’t cost any money to run and is available any time people need it.”
As Airmen within the engine test cell continue their mission, the new training system will enable them to improve their capabilities and prepare them for any event.
“I have high hopes for this program and would like to see it utilized in all test cell functions,” Ferguson said. “It would be great to see this virtual trainer adopted and utilized on all other aircrafts so they can improve their capabilities to keep the Air Force ready to fight in the best and most advanced way possible.”