Virtual Reality Flight Simulator Lab Takes Learning Pilots Safely to the Skies

Student using the new Aviation SimulatorEastern Kentucky University has installed a 2D/Virtual Reality professional flight simulation lab within the Aviation program. The lab, located in the Whalin Technology complex on EKU’s campus, contains multiple simulation stations (colloquially called sleds), each equipped with a high-end Alienware computer, a 43-inch ultra-high definition monitor, control yoke, power controls, rubber pedals, virtual reality goggles, X-plane 11 software, and Gleim multi-user X-plane flight training course. 

The VR simulators are state-of-the-art technology that are only available in a small number of university-based aviation programs in the United States. The technology is being integrated into the pilot training programs of both the United States Air Force and Navy.

“As the only flight school in the Commonwealth of Kentucky we are proud to offer this opportunity to students in the Appalachian region of our state,” said EKU President Dr. David McFaddin.

The simulators will provide students real-time instruction, step-by-step guidance, and corrective feedback. After each use, the post-flight lesson report shows the student’s performance and which areas still need improvement.

“We can refine any issues a student may be having in the techniques,” said Dennis Sinnett, Executive Director of EKU’s Aviation program. “We can get them in there and practice takeoffs, stalls, landings, all the entire regime that we are expecting our students to be proficient in, with the goal of reducing time to train,” he said. 

The flight simulator is as real as it gets without actually flying a plane. Once students put on the virtual reality goggles, they can look all around inside the cockpit and out the windows to see unbelievably realistic features.

“The VR flight simulation lab will provide an opportunity for our students to experience flight training in a less stressful and more controlled environment,” said James Glass, EKU Aviation Instructor.

The lab is designed to not only teach students in a safer manner but also at a faster rate. With the lab in use, professors now teach students a lesson, the students then practice in the flight simulator, and after mastering the material they are ready to go up in the air. This new teaching method creates a less stressful learning environment for students as they become familiar and comfortable flying a plane before ever actually stepping foot into a plane. 

“We can teach them the fundamentals in the VR lab, then once they get into an aircraft, this isn’t the first time they’re experiencing it,” Glass said. “They have been through it numerous times before they even climb into one.” 

The simulators are top-of-the-line training tools but will also function as recruiting tools for the EKU Aviation program across eastern Kentucky. “With us pushing the sleds out to the community, we want to capitalize on the interest in aviation, to foster interest in aviation, throughout the state,” Sinnett said. 

EKU’s Aviation program is allowing selected high schools and community colleges to install one of the flight simulators in their own school so that students can utilize the technology.

The flight lab is available to all EKU Aviation students. For more information about the Aviation program, please visit https://aviation.eku.edu/.