C-5 Simulator removed from flight safety building

The main body of the C-5 flight simulator is hoisted away from the flight safety building by crane, April 17. The simulator was taken to Letterkenny Army Depot.(Air National Guard photo by Capt. Christopher Tusing)

The main body of the C-5 flight simulator is hoisted away from the flight safety building by crane, April 17. The simulator was taken to Letterkenny Army Depot.(Air National Guard photo by Capt. Christopher Tusing)

Martinsburg, W.Va. -- Starting with just a wooden chair and box as a desk, Rockey Gilreath transformed an empty building into a premier simulator facility that's been vital to the 167th mission since 2007.

Gilreath, who served as the 167th simulator site manager for nearly seven years, said he was very proud of the training and service he was able to provide to the mission.

"The biggest accomplishment for me and my guys was to be able to provide this wing, all the aircrew members and maintenance with the proper training to do their job safely," Gilreath said.

Currently the facility is closed for renovations for the conversion to the C-17 mission.

He said the simulator facility was the first within all the C-5 bases and was considered a "benchmark site" because of how the program was set up.

He recently returned to Dover Air Force Base in April as the site manager of two simulators used by active duty, reserve and training squadrons.

As a pilot, Capt. Ryan Hawk said the simulator is a key to the success of the mission and an imperative tool to have.

"With the simulator, there is a 99% chance you're going to take-off and accomplish what you need to," said Hawk, explaining weather and maintenance variables are not factors in the mission launch.

On the contrary, if aircrew members need to train in certain situations, the simulator allows them to dictate the scenario regarding visibility, crosswinds and cloud cover.

"What's great about the simulator is if you want to input situations you wouldn't normally encounter in the airplane, you can do that," Hawk said.

From the safety aspect, he said you can train in pretty austere conditions without taking the same risk you would in the aircraft. For example, aircrew members have training requirements that call for them to fly with only three engines. The training can be done in the aircraft, but it's not necessary if you have a simulator facility on your base.

The aircraft commander of Reach 716, Hawk and his crew put that training to the test when a bird strike forced them to complete an emergency landing during an overseas mission. They were able to successfully land the plane and he acknowledged the simulator training of the entire crew was vital to their mission accomplishment.

"The simulator prepared us to concentrate on the aviation and not become so overwhelmed with the rest of the task," Hawk said.

"I think it contributed immensely to their capability to do that," said Gilreath. "A lot of airplanes would not have survived that and a lot of crew members may not have survived that."

Gilreath said the facility staff celebrated the accomplishment and saw it as a victory for their work as trainers.

"It was like winning a World Series or hearing someone say thank you to the millionth degree," Gilreath said.

The simulator facility is projected to reopen configured for C-17 training in July 2015.