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Virtual training, real results

U.S. Air Force photoAirman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier Aircrew personnel steer a parachute during a simulation on Barksdale Air Force Base. The parachute simulator can be programmed to put aircrew members in multiple scenarios, some of which include landing in large bodies of water, an urban environment or having to maneuver through strong winds.

Barksdale airmen undergo personal simulated parachute training


Airman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier

2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs


BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — The resources needed to refuel and maintain a plane just so aircrew can receive real-life parachute training would cost millions of dollars a year.

Instead, aircrew personnel receive their parachuting training inside a simulator, which gives them experience similar to the real thing.

“This training is used for our aviators in the event of an in-flight emergency where they can’t land the plane,” said Tech. Sgt. Mike Slaton, 2nd Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist. “Their parachutes are designed to get them from their malfunctioning plane to the ground safely.”

According to Slaton, parachuting is a perishable skill that must be relearned often, which is why aircrew personnel are required to receive this training annually.

“We can’t give our aircrew real life training because of money and safety concerns,” Slaton said. “This simulation is as realistic as it gets.”

Before getting inside the simulator, aircrew personnel receive classroom instruction on the basics of parachuting and how to work their way out a crisis.

“The simulator can be programmed to put our aircrew in a variety of situations,” Slaton said. “We can induce parachute malfunctions, have them steer toward or away from specific locations and adjust the wind speed.”

Slaton is an experienced military freefall parachutist. Aircrew personnel use the same equipment Slaton has used and are confident in it.

“This training is essential to us because you need to have faith in your equipment and you won’t have faith if you do not know what to do with it,” said Capt. Matthew Small, 20th Bomb Squadron aircraft commander. “Everyone is busy, so having this training here saves us time. We get just as much parachuting experience with the simulator.”

Aircrew personnel never want to be in a situation where they need to use this training. However, if they ever get into an emergency situation where a bailout is a must, they will have the confidence and tools needed to get home safely.

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