Museum’s Mission Quest gives JROTC cadets a taste of flying

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78 ABW/PA
"Don't forget to put you landing gear down," echoed through the corridors of the Mission Quest lab as Northside High School students took a few F-15 Eagles and a C-17 Globemaster III for a spin.

The 60 students, cadets in the high school's Air Force Junior ROTC program, were all thrilled to get in the cockpit of the Mission Quest Flight School program's simulators and test their flying skills.

The program is designed to enhance interest and proficiency in math, science and technology; aircraft components, functions, navigation and flight planning; eye and hand coordination; full-sized simulation operation; communications, leadership and team building and aviation history.

However, before the cadets could climb into the cockpit, they spent several hours at their high school learning about aerodynamics, flight controls, navigation, avionics compass reading and flight planning.

After three one-hour classes at their school, the students arrived to the Museum of Aviation for some hands-on flight training.

Once at the simulator, the students transformed to pilots, co-pilots and navigators and Wayne Carley, the Mission Quest instructor, became an air traffic control tower operator.

The cadets took their two-seater F-15s and one four-seater C-17 from Las Vegas to Catalina Island during the simulation and learned the value of communication in the cockpit.

The co-pilot and pilot share the controls making team work a necessity to arrive to their destination safely. The copilot is in control of navigation, radio, radar, the speed break and the landing gear of the aircraft, while the pilot controls the direction, altitude and speed of the aircraft. For the three-man team flying the C-17, the navigation responsibilities were passed on to the third man, or navigator, whose sole responsibility was determining position, course, and distance traveled.

The students agreed the hardest part about flying the F-15 simulator was nailing the landing.

"You had to line up with the runway, reduce speed, hit the breaks and put the landing gear down," said Cadet Sabrina Dallas, a sophomore.

Cadet Dallas' copilot, Cadet Kali Birdsey had one piece of advice for future simulator pilots: "Just pay attention and make sure the landing gear is down."

Cadet LeShawn Boyd, a senior, also had some difficulty perfecting the landing.

"To land, you were supposed to be at about 3,000 feet. We were at 900 feet and about 15 feet from the landing area," Cadet Boyd said.

Cadet William Eubanks, a senior, said it was challenging to keep up with your copilot, while also keeping up with altitude and speeds.

"You've got to look at the speeds, but also have to look where you are flying and make sure you aren't flying into anything," he said.

For Cadet Troy Blanton, a sophomore, maintaining the proper altitude was not as easy as he anticipated.

"We were flying at about 34,000 feet and we were supposed to fly at 10,000 feet," Cadet Blanton said.

For the aircrew of the C-17, landing once again was the source of much contention.

"The runway wasn't big enough for a C-17," said Cadet Calvin Harris, a sophomore.

The aircrew agreed once they mastered communicating while in flight, flying the aircraft was more fun.

The C-17 crew also learned the importance of having a third man in the cockpit.

"Navigation is a big part of flying," said Dwight Brown, a sophomore.

None of the cadets had to worry about crashing during the simulation because the crash part of the program was disabled. Students would simply bounce along when they failed to land their aircraft properly.

Though the museum has had a simulator program for sometime, the system was recently upgraded with brand new software and hardware to give the students the most realistic experience possible.

According to Mr. Carley, the older system was not dependable and the graphics were poor in comparison to the new state-of-the-art simulator program.

"We had the same shells and a 15-year-old software package. It was like playing Pong," Mr. Carley said.

Google Earth was used for the graphics on the new system.

Though it was teenagers using the simulator this time, Mr. Carley said the simulator also caters to college students and adult groups interested in team building.

One of the things that make the simulation so exciting for the students is the ability to fly side by side with their peers and view one another on screen.

The simulator program also allows those trying their hand at flying to fly anywhere in the world. It allows the control tower to add all sorts of weather conditions such as hurricane force winds and snow storms and creates night flying conditions.

"Its always good to hear it in class, but to be able to get the sensation of what pilots go through is a great opportunity," said Master Sgt. Marion Rhodes, aerospace science instructor at Northside High School.

He added the students don't really realize they're learning.

"They have fun, to them it's a big video game," Sergeant Rhodes said.