Monday, May 25, 2015

Flight Simulator

Navy N3N over Greeley: Pilot Walt Dorlac-United Airlines Capt. Chad Evans U.S. Air Force

Preston Middle School offers an enrichment class entitled Flight Simulator.  This engaging class is designed to introduce middle school students to the basics of piloting a single engine aircraft, notably a Cessna 172SP.  Students receive about 40 minutes of instruction each school day using ‘off-the-shelf ‘ software and hardware.

Watch this website for information on our first class of the 2011-2012 school year.  This quarter we have and all-girls class of 20 young women!

One of our first exercises was to list what we Know about flying and what we Want to know and what we Learned.  We call these KWLs.  The graphic below is the KWL chart for our first days of class.  Note that one question is why women were not allowed to fly in the past.  We were able to view a video of an interview with Patty Wagstaff, a US National Aerobatic champion and one of the few to win it 3 times!  See this interview with Patty here.

Our KWL chart for the first day of class

We are fortunate to live in a very generous community and we are building a sophisticated stationary simulator complete with flight and navigation instruments as well as an interactive radio and switch panels.  The heart of our simulator is a donated high-end HP graphics workstation.  The components are from Saitek.  Watch our site as we design and assemble our PC-based Training Device.

  Weeks one and two focus on the basics: take-offs and climbs, flying straight and level, normal turns and landings.  
For a diversion, we took off from London Heathrow on runway 27L, climbed to 1500′ and made a 180 degree turn to 90 degrees or east.  We flew to downtown London following the Thames.
This is a screen shot of a simulated 172 over the London dockyards. 
We started work on airport traffic patterns and began a simple cross-contry flight from KFNL (Fort Collins – Loveland Municipal Airport) to KGXY (Greeley –
Weld County Airport).  Instructions were to take off from rwy 33 at KFNL and climb on runway heading to 6000′.  We looked at a sectional map and concluded that a reasonable heading to KGXY would be 90 degrees.  Once over that airport at 7000′, the girls paused their flight and pulled up a map of their flight path and current location.  I saw decent altitude control throughout the flight (+/- 200′) and nice heading control (+/- 10 degrees).
The instrument panel was ordered on Thursday, September 8th, and we should receive it an about a week.  The panel will allow us to mount our instruments for our simulator.  We hope that we can have some parents come in to work with their daughters as we put the parts together.  Some assembly will definitely be required.  We plan to drill and rivet and glue everything together over a couple day period.  The blank panel will be DONATED by Front Panel Express!  They are producers of high-quality instrument panels for aviation, electronics and many other applications.   We can use a few good hands that would love to supervise the young women as they do the work.  Contact me at school at if interested.
Front Panel Express shipped the instrument panel and it arrived on September 20th.  The packaging was excellent and even tasty.   When we opened box, the FPE staff had filled all the nooks and crannies with GummiBears!   Pictured on the left are the FlyGirls with their surprise goodies and big smiles.
Derek Johnson from EAA Chapter 515 (Experimental Aircraft Association click here) and another member will be coming to Preston on Friday to consult with us about mounting instruments in our Front Panel Express panel and how to construct a tabletop housing.
This week, we began to learn about ATC (Air Traffic Control) and planned a flight from Fort Collins – Loveland Municipal (KFNL) to Rocky Mountain Metro (KBJC).  BJC has a control tower and the simulator allows the sim pilots to make scripted radio calls to the tower to receive landing instructions; particularly pattern entry and runway assignment along with altimeter settings.
First Officer Cheryl S. of Frontier Airlines and her 3 year old daughter visited class on Thursday.  She talked with the girls about her path to aviation.   Airplane watching was a favorite activity of  Cheryl and her father and when he passed away when she was 12, she decided, “To become a pilot so that I could be closer to him”.  She rode her bike to a flying  school with $80 she had saved and started flying lessons.   “I didn’t always fit in,” in middle school and found that even some adults discouraged her passion for aviation. “You have to persevere,” Cheryl told the girls.
She is featured in a video segment entitled Cheryl Frontier Airlines Why We Fly .
Preston also hosted Walt Dorlac from United Airlines on Thursday.  He served on a careers panel organized by Preston gifted-ed teacher Rachael Browning for her students.  Captain Dorlac served in the U.S. Air Force as a C130 pilot as well as an instructor at the Air Force Academy and as a T-38 instructor.  In addition to his duties as an instructor for United and flying 757s, Walt has been credited several times in Sport Pilot Magazine as a photo pilot.
The panel preparation continues with drilling holes for the instruments and shaping aluminum for the shroud.  Pictured are Walt Dorlac of United and Paul Singh of New Delhi in Walt’s workshop.
This week students continued skill development with steep turns and flying a specified airspeed in preparation for the final test next week. 
We also visited KFNL or Fort Collins – Loveland Municipal Airport and went to the Flying School at Colorado Contrails.  There the staff showed off their Cessna 172R trainer and their flight simulator.  The Flying School has graciously hosted over 150 Flight Simulator students over the past 3 years  They offer introductory flights and enjoy showing youth the pleasure and practicality of flight!
Here Jules and Paige pose in the cockpit of the Flying School’s Cessna 172 R trainer.  Pictured in the background Taylor.  We’re all business in Flight Simulator!!
We hosted Captain Eric Trigg from Southwest Airlines on Monday.  She shared with the flygirls about his path to aviation and how he soloed at 16 and got his license at 17.  He mentioned that his first airplane was purchased from Sari’s grandmother!  He spoke about his background in mechanical engineering at CSU and how his love for flying drew him back to the cockpit.  He told about working conditions and salary for pilots and when he asked how many students were thinking about becoming a pilot, several girls raised their hands!  He wrapped up his time showing them how to take a 737-400 off from Denver International 35L.
Work continues on the simulator.  We hope to have it ready for assembly this week! 
AND, on Wednesday night, Walt Dorlac helped get the case ready to skin and install instruments.  It is starting to look like the real thing.  Thursday, the sim will be in class and we will pop rivet the case and install instruments.  The software will take a while to get up and running as well as a workable display system.  We have three monitors on a tree but they are too low to use with our life-sized panel.
The metal ‘hairs’ are called cleco pliers and are designed to make sure airplane parts fit before riveting them together.  We will use pop rivets rather than traditional rivets as the skin is not structural.  Walt is active in the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) who encourages youth particpation in aviation with programs including Young Eagles , Build-a-Plane, and Air Academy.
The panel is running and there is finish work to be done, covering the case with upholstery.  We are still working on the software but about 80% of it works!