ROTC flight simulator offers free flying lessons

“The only thing better than the flight simulator is actually flying; that is how realistic it is,” Brandon Ferguson, Air Force ROTC Cadet, said. “It’s as close to a real plane as possible – without the stress that comes with flying an actual plane.”

Last year, the Air Force ROTC was given a $75,000 grant from UM to start the Detachment 155 Flight Simulator Program. Touted as a fun, safe way to practice flying, the simulator is used for flight training. An added bonus to the program is that it’s open – at no cost – to the public. No flight experience is necessary, and everyone is free to take as many lessons as they wish.

The simulator was recently on display at the UC to garner attention and awareness about the new program.

“Seeing the flight simulator in the UC caught my attention and really made me interested in the program,” said Lance Morrison after seeing the apparatus, which many compare to a huge arcade game.

The newest simulator is the General Aviation Flight Training [GAFT], used for the introductory course in the flight simulator program. Modeled after the Cessna 172 airplane, a single engine light aircraft, the simulator runs on the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator software. A 42′ plasma HDTV screen displays realistic flight terrain graphics, and the simulator includes an exact replica of the Cessna 172 cockpit, with gauges, throttle, rudder pedals and switches. The GAFT is a completely enclosed modular unit, so the pilot feels as if he or she is actually sitting in a cockpit.

According to Cadet Steven Schappert, Public Affairs officer, most flight companies use this program as a training tool; he would feel confident flying an airplane after taking this complete course.

“This is a less expensive alternative to learning basic flying techniques,” Schappert said. “It’s definitely a safer alternative to flying an actual plane, because you can crash and still be alive afterwards.”

The Jet Aviation Flight Training [JAFT] is for the more experienced pilots in training. JAFT is modeled after the F-16 Fighting Falcon – considered the premier fighter aircraft – and features a fully integrated, hands-on throttle and stick control based on an actual F-16 control layout. Flight is viewed on a 52′ projection screen and has an advanced sound system. A force feedback seat gives the pilot the sensation of actually flying. The Falcon 4.0 software, offering a highly accurate flying experience, can set up various scenarios, including harsh weather conditions, in order to test a pilot’s flying ability.

“I’ve tested the GAFT and the JAFT,” Jack Dervin, ROTC student, said. “They are both fun, especially because the controls and instruments are so accurate.”

A new software program, called the X Plane, will be used in the near future. Using the X Plane software, aerospace engineering students will create airframe designs to be programmed to run on the simulator.

“It is definitely a cool opportunity that is hard to find anywhere else,” Schappert said. “Hopefully more students who are interested in aviation will take advantage of it.”

For more information on the Detachment 155 Flight Simulator Program, e-mail

Caralyn Pearson can be contacted at