Simulators Help Trim Training Costs At Fairchild

FAIRCHILD AFB — As the Pentagon looks for ways to cut defense spending in Washington Fairchild Air Force Base here in Spokane is looking at ways to trim its own budget as well.

One way they’re trimming costs is putting people behind the controls of an aircraft simulator instead of the real thing. There are some things you can only do in a simulator like letting a novice take control of an air tanker.

Another thing the simulators are indispensable for is putting pilots through a wide variety of worst case scenarios ranging from engine fires to bird strikes. Crews spend regular training time in the simulators working to keep their virtual planes airborne.

“Here we actually get to cut out the throttle, flip the switches so if that situation were to occur in the airplane real world our muscle memory would take over know what we’re supposed to do,” Air Force Captain Jordan Collins said.

The simulators that put pilots through all weather conditions at airstrips around the world also cuts fuel costs for training missions.

“This has been an initiative for the last year and half to try and save have more money available for other aspects,” Capt. Collins said.

That includes keeping Fairchild’s aging fleet of KC-135 tankers flying. Master Sergeant Mark Stenzel with the 92nd Maintenance Squadron is one of those people charged with helping keeping the 92nd Air Refueling Wing’s 34 tankers flying.

Each one of those planes goes through a two-year checkup where, in just 10 days, 92nd Wing mechanics, assisted by their counterparts from the Air Guard’s 141st Air Refueling Wing, will repair, replace and inspect all the different parts that keep tankers flying.

“There are many parts and pieces that we have to replace every single inspection but we do it for the better good of the mission naturally,” MSGT. Mark Stenzel said.

Because of the KC-135’s role in our national defense, the repairing and refurbishing of Fairchild’s fleet is an ongoing process and that’s because construction of a new air tanker is still years away.