Simulator Helps Train New Pilots
Tucked away in a back room in the old terminal at the Moore County Airport is the latest training tool for aspiring pilots.
Sitting in a small, windowless room with blank walls is a stationary flight simulator. The equipment, purchased for about $21,000, is a learning device that helps teach aspiring pilots proper procedures necessary for flying in a realistic and safe environment.
"It helps with situational awareness," said Abe Bawagad, a chief flight instructor. "You can stop in the middle and discuss things with students. Up in the airplane, you can't do that."
Since being interviewed for this article, Bawagad has left the airport to pursue a career with a commercial airline.
The simulator has been operational since Nov. 1. It was purchased by four customers at the Moore County airport who were pursuing their licenses.
They agreed to lease the equipment back to the airport.
Now the airport provides an instructor, tracks flight time on the simulator and handles all the billing of hours.
Aspiring pilots along with an instructor can train on the simulator for $40 per hour, about $70 cheaper than it costs to train in an actual airplane.
"We are really excited about this tool," said Ron Maness, manager of the Moore County Airport.
The airport offers flight instruction in the following areas of certification: private pilot, commercial pilot, instrument, flight instruction, individual ground instruction and ground school training classes in conjunction with Sandhills Community College.
Maness said the simulator is not a money-maker for the airport, but rather a service for those looking for career advancement.
"We've had students come through here that started by getting their private license, then their commercial (license), got their instrument ticket and built up their flying time, and now they are flying with commercial airlines," Maness said. "So you never know where these kinds of things lead."
The simulator allows student pilots to fly about 20 different types of aircraft They can fly in and out of more than 200 airports across the country - including Moore County.
When students take controls of the simulator, it is like a giant video game. In front of them is the airplane front dashboard, complete with all the gauges, a yoke - or steering wheel - and three large monitors that serve as the windshield on the plane.
A side computer serves as an air traffic control, where the flight instructor can adjust time of day, weather conditions, airports and other factors that may affect the pilot when they are flying.
"You can simulate low clouds, flying in the clouds," said Quinn Locklear, a flight instructor. "We can simulate rain, thunder, lightning - anything the pilot might encounter. And all of it adds another layer of reality to it."
During one session, the student flew a simulation on a single-engine Bonanza aircraft out of Charlotte. During the brief simulation, Locklear threw plenty of different conditions at the budding pilot - first fog, then thunderstorms and then hail.
Maness, who has logged thousands of flight time in an airplane and even trained pilots, said it is "very realistic for a stationary simulator."
"You don't get the feeling of the props turning," he said. "It's never this smooth in the airplane, and the sounds are a little more intense in an airplane."
But Maness quickly added that the simulator is a great procedural trainer for aspiring pilots.
"The beauty of the flight simulation is it's great practice," he said. "You can practice right here as opposed to being in the airplane."
Contact Tom Embrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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