ENJJPT implements increased protective measures to keep training

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Megan Morrissey

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — An important aspect of pilot training is the use of simulated flights, or computer-based, instructor-controlled training programs that artificially recreates the flying environment, where the instructor can cause plane malfunctions and the students are able to see how they react.

Thankfully after “ejecting,” the student and instructor can walk away physically unharmed, however some egos may be bruised. Whether a pilot has two weeks of flying experience or 20 years, these types of flights are critical to see how individuals react to different types of scenarios and keep their minds mentally sharp, especially when it comes to dealing with threats. 

The threat of the spread of Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has added another challenging layer to the training regimen for student and instructor pilots of the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program. Those in ENJJPT are  hard at work developing new procedures to keep personnel healthy while continuing its mission of creating combat pilots for the alliance.

“We have very specific procedures in place to enforce a safe distance between our students. From using video teleconferencing capabilities from briefs/debriefs to having the student get into the sim before the sim instructor pilot goes to the console,” said 80th FTW Commander Col. Russell Driggers. “This is a specific concern of mine...something we must get right every single time, without fail.”

An example of increased protective measures can be seen in the program’s flight simulator building such as arrows and tape covering the floors directing traffic.This helps limit the contact time between individuals. 

The only time an instructor and student are in the same vicinity is when they are in the simulator during a training mission. 

Pre- and post-flight briefings are also done at a distance with virtual chats between students and instructors. Instead of sitting at a small desk, students call-in to their instructors and go over the particulars of the mission. 

ENJJPT has two different types of simulators for the two different kinds of trainer aircraft, the T-6A Texan II and the T-38C Talon. 

Individuals in the Texan II Instrument Flight Trainer are physically removed from their instructors. The instructor communicates via a microphone outside the simulator with the student in an enclosed simulator.

The T-38 Weapon System Trainer is the same concept, but laid out a little differently. In this simulator, instructors and students are enclosed in the same simulator. 

To mitigate risks, ENJJPT personnel have developed new procedures. 

Students typically don’t wear their oxygen masks during the simulated flights. But, to limit the spread of COVID-19, a student steps into the simulator first, puts on their oxygen mask and gloves, and wipes down their area of the simulator. The instructor follows and wipes down the microphone and other surfaces used by other instructors. 

After completing the flight, the instructor re-sanitizes his area and leaves to go back to the desk. The student then leaves with their mask on and goes to their private briefing room, where they will be debriefed by phone. 

In an ENJJPT Facebook Live update on March 26, 2020, Driggers spoke about the coordination needed from team members and families to successfully continue operations.

“It takes a lot of cooperation from our families and our team to carry out the hygiene measures and to carry out the social distancing, and what I have seen really makes me proud,” he said.  “There has been a whole lot of hard work done by the leadership to make the right decisions, to do the right things, to take care of our people, and I have been very proud of the work that has been done.”