For years, aircrew personnel at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., have had the opportunity to train in virtual simulators that mimic real-life scenarios that occur during flight.
Now, thanks to virtual technological advances and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape instructors with the 412th Operations Support Squadron, aircrew will now be able to undergo parachute hanging harness training that same way with the help of the Parasim, a virtual reality parachute simulator.
“The way the Parasim works is that the instructor sets the stage on the computer, and the student flies the canopy while looking through virtual reality goggles,” said SSgt. David Watters, 412th OSS NCOIC of SERE Operations. “It provides a more realistic picture of what it is like to fly a parachute without actually having to jump out of a plane.”
Although traditional hanging harness training involved flight crew performing different stages of egress or bailout procedures while strapped from a fixed harness that was attached to the ceiling, this new form of training uses that same principle but with a visual cue to show the aircrew member what they are doing correct or incorrectly, added Watters.
“It adds realistic time in flight versus altitude while under the canopy and it gives students a much better picture what it is like to fly the parachute while gauging the winds versus where to land,” said SSgt. Martin Ruemenapp, a SERE instructor who has had a chance to test the new simulator. “Having experienced the real thing, the Parasim really makes you think that you are truly flying a parachute.”
With the acquisition of this new training device, instructors stated that the Parasim isn’t intended to replace the previous hanging harness trainer, but merely to increase awareness of different situations that may occur in a realistic environment where the wind or terrain may be a factor when trying to guide a parachute down.
“Although this is not a standard piece of equipment at all Air Force bases, it is a standard piece of equipment at most SERE shops and we’re trying to make sure our aircrew here receive the best training here in the event of an in-flight emergency,” Watters said.
For aircrew personnel interested in testing out the new trainer, Watters said that individuals should contact their unit schedulers to sign for Emergency Parachute Training via the SERE/Aircrew Flight Equipment Community of Practice website and then request to fly in the Parasim by e-mail specifically.