‘Ready for takeoff:’ Flight simulator at AEX is preparing LSUA student pilots
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The LSUA Professional Aviation Program’s flight simulator is officially up and running at their off-campus classroom at Alexandria International Airport (AEX), a place that is integral to their education.
In addition to shuttling on and off the runways at AEX with Gulf Coast Aviation flight instructors, the student pilots are now able to put in the time in the cockpit with the program’s flight simulator. The simulator mimics all the aspects of a real plane in flight, from a replicated cockpit, digital and manual controls, real-time signals, travel time and distance and even the views. Students can fly in and out of anywhere in the world.
“It gets realistic when they turn on the winds and you’re kinda flying in the clouds. You have to stay in the cockpit and really know what you’re doing,” said Nathan Blackwell, an LSUA aviation student.
“It’s incredibly realistic,” echoed Brett Chelette, another student pilot. “It actually made my flying the real plane better, I found. It’s super sensitive, so if you can fly the simulator, you can fly the real plane.”
Chelette and Blackwell both have already earned their private pilot’s licenses and are now working to complete their instrument training. The simulator will put them steps ahead toward earning that certification.
“What it can do for our students who have soloed and have mastered the basics of flight in an airplane, they can now get in the simulator and practice maneuvers, stalls, steep turns,” explained LSUA Aviation Instructor Shari Drerup. “Everything they practiced in the simulator carries over to the airplane.”
It also allows students to make mistakes without the extra cost of flight time and resources.
Drerup called the simulator “vital” to their young program, which has gained 18 new freshman students for the 2023-2024 academic year.
England Authority footed the cost of the approximately $200,000 technology, part of their Aviation Career and Education Initiative in collaboration with LSUA and CLTCC. AEX Aviation Director Scott Gammel sees it as a solution to a larger problem.
“This is actually an investment, not just for LSUA but for our community,” said Gammel. “We were directly impacted by the pilot shortage nationwide.”
Gammel hopes student pilots like Chelette and Blackwell training out of AEX will one day be pilots shuttling passengers on and off of their runways.
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