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February 20. 2014 9:31PM

Sky's the limit for Pinkerton pilot program

DERRY -- With the help of flight simulation software, some Pinkerton Academy students are learning what it’s like to fly a plane without ever leaving the ground.

Members of the Air Force JROTC Flight Simulation Club practiced on the simulators Wednesday after school. Through the software, they can fly single-engine planes, helicopters or even replicas of the Wright Brothers’ famous plane, said Chief Master Sgt. Leon Hosfelt, a club adviser. Cadets in the club also learn how to take off, fly and land planes, such as a Cessna 172 or 182.

A lot of the computers, peripherals and other equipment such as yoke and rudder pedal controls were donated by the Pinkerton Academy Class of 1953, Hosfelt said. Cadets are also taught how to plot on aeronautical charts, he added.“Most of these kids are like experts because they take this program,” Hosfelt said.

One former student is now attending the prestigious Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., he said.

As Hosfelt spoke, club member Jacob Post helped another student on the simulator. Post, a senior, has extensive experience on the flight simulator and assists other club members during meetings.

Post said the club runs virtually the entire school year and members receive a certificate after they complete their solo flight on the simulator. The certificate doesn’t give them any privileges when it comes to actually flying a plane, but it does show they are proficient on the simulator, he said.

Post helped another club member who was flying a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane. The simulation included realistic sound effects and gave an idea of what it could have been like for the first flights in history.

Another student used the steering wheel, or yoke, to fly a different simulated plane. Steering is one of the most basic things to learn, and steering a plane is more like steering a boat than a car, Post said. If the yoke is pulled to the right, the plane will continue traveling to the right unless the pilot corrects it by steering to the left, he said.

During a simulated flight, a computer generated voice can be heard telling the operator to slow down by pulling up on the yoke. Another aspect of the program provides yellow circles that appear on the monitor screen for pilots to fly through.

The software is interactive and also includes such features as simulated runway lights for landings, Post said. A set of white lights will light up if the plane is coming in too high; and reds lights will light up if the simulated plane is flying too low to land, he said.

“That’s what a real airport does, so it shows you if you are on the right glide path or not,” Post said.

At the end of one successful simulated flight by a club member, the computer voice came on and could be heard saying “well done.”


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