AUBURN – Most college students realize the old adage “practice makes perfect” is a good idea and it usually results in a good grade in the classroom. But when lives are on the line, the saying takes on a new significance.
For Auburn University flight management students, this means being able to pilot aircraft in dangerous situations and adverse weather conditions — using skills developed without ever leaving the ground. Auburn, in its eighth decade of flight education, has added a new, full-motion flight simulator that will complement its inflight training.
“Versatility and enhanced safety are the main benefits of the new simulator,” said Dale Watson, director of aviation education in the Department of Aviation and Supply Chain Management in the College of Business.
Auburn officials recently dedicated and named the machine as the Solon Dixon Simulator in honor of Solon Dixon, a 1926 graduate of Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University. He was a leader in the forestry industry but he began his career in the aeronautical engineering and flight education programs at Auburn.
The simulator, the only one of its kind in Alabama according to Watson, was purchased through a $200,000 gift from the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation and is located near campus in the Auburn Industrial Park on Pumphrey Avenue.
It is a Fidelity/Motus 622i Advanced Aviation Training Device that can be programmed to replicate a C172 single-engine airplane, Beech Barron twin-engine airplane and Cessna Citation 500 jet and can be upgraded to include more aircraft.
“In addition to training our students to pilot different aircraft, we use the simulator to expose them to aircraft emergencies and bad weather,” he said. “We hope they never experience these situations in real airplanes.”
Nick Lenczycki, assistant chief flight instructor, added, “We can program the weather to simulate thunderstorms, icing, turbulence, microbursts and other conditions, and we can present mechanical problems such as an engine failure or radio malfunction. We can conduct disorientation training in which students focus solely on their instruments.”
The simulator also contains a global database of international airports as well as topographical features around the world.
Auburn’s aviation education program consists of classroom instruction, inflight training and time in the simulator. “We estimate that students will spend 35 to 50 hours in the new simulator during their time at Auburn. This is in addition to 300 or so hours in real airplanes,” Watson said.
The addition of the simulator gives new Auburn graduates an advantage when entering the airline industry, Watson says, because airlines immediately put new pilot trainees into jet simulators. Auburn graduates will already be experienced in that type of flying.
“Previously, it was a big step to move from a twin-engine piston plane at college to a jet at the airline,” Watson said. “Now, students get exposed to it here.”
Auburn student Joseph Young, who is double majoring in flight management and supply chain management, has been using the simulator for six months.
“It has the same feel as a real airplane or jet,” said Young, who already has his private and commercial pilot licenses and is working on his certified instructor license. “It has the same reactions and same control loading that you feel in an airplane. It’s just incredible how accurate it is.”
The new device is just the latest technological upgrade for the aviation education program. Glass cockpit technology was added to the simulator lab and the flight line several years ago, and four aircraft in the fleet were upgraded in 2011.
“We have had simulation equipment for decades, but until recent years it had outdated technology,” Watson said. “Everyone is very excited about the new Solon Dixon Simulator.”
A video segment and photographs are available on the Auburn University Office of Communications and Marketing website at http://ocm.auburn.edu/featured_story/flight_sim.html.
(Written by Charles Martin.)