New Palmer simulator aims to reduce aviation accidents

Pilots can practice flying in various weather conditions in many different planes

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pilots wishing to practice flying from the Palmer airport now have a new three-screen flight simulator to use at no cost to local aviators.

Courtesy of the Alaska Journal of Commerce
Courtesy of the Alaska Journal of Commerce

The new Aviation Training Device has three 27-inch LCD monitors, sound and instruments, and can emulate dozens of different aircraft. It is located at the New Horizon Building on the south end of the Palmer Municipal Airport.

The Medallion Foundation held an open house at the facility on Feb. 9 to introduce pilots to the $10,000 training device.

"We put one of these at Lake Hood and pilots there are using it to practice flying places like Merrill (Field) and Rainey Pass two or three times before they get in their planes and go there," said Dennis Ward, executive director of the Medallion Foundation. "We hope this will get the same kind of use for the mountains and passes around here."

E Terra LLC and the state Department of Transportation provided graphical interfaces that provide 3D-type terrain from satellite maps.

The terrain is so realistic that pilots use the simulator to practice flight-seeing tours before actually making the trips.

Ward said DOT is also working with the Medallion Foundation to improve flight safety for tour aircraft using the simulators.

Called the Q-Based Training Program, the idea is to have a flight director sit with pilots play a typical flight used by tour operators in Hawaii and Alaska and show them what the flight looks like on a perfectly sunny day, and then show them what it looks like with one-mile visibility, according to Ward.

"Tour pilots can break their flights into four-mile legs and see what the terrain looks like at their reporting points and then what it will look like when the weather goes down," Ward said. "This should help a pilot make a safe decision before things get out of their control."

The Medallion Foundation plans to showcase the software the first week of April by putting a simulator in Juneau at the Baranof Hotel to show legislators and state officials, Ward said.

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