Dr. Chris Johnson believes that, with his “pre-flight experience” system, pilots could see 10 to 15 hours of simulation time before ever flying in a real plane. “Nobody has designed simulation to support pilots’ roles as meteorologists,” says Johnson, and that is exactly what the simulation training is all about.
With the development of Pilot Training System well under way, Dr. Johnson is exploring a more specific avenue within flight simulation. He is currently working to fund a project, in partnership with the UW Med Flight Program, which would prepare aero-medical evacuation teams for various weather scenarios that accompany the chaotic nature of the mission itself. It’s crucial that, in an emergency evacuation via helicopter, the medical team is efficient and the pilot is prepared for all situations. Pilots must be able to land by vision alone because, if the landing is on a highway or in a field, he or she cannot depend on instrument landing systems. These systems allow the aircraft to travel back to the helipad or airstrip but will not provide any assistance in retrieving a patient who may be in an undesignated landing zone. This is where Johnson’s flight simulation training system comes in to play. He will be able to train the evacuation pilots in the poor weather conditions that are likely to be encountered in emergency situations and would otherwise not be experienced in traditional training.
Until recently, simulation manufacturers have been under the assumption that pilots just kick the tires and jump inChris Johnson
Another aspect of the aero-medical evacuation project involves efficiency. In September, Johnson volunteered to be part of an efficiency study at the trauma center in Hollywood, CA. He participated in moonlight shifts in the emergency center to analyze how well the medical teams worked together when a patient arrived. Johnson stated that he is, “just getting his feet wet in the medical realm,” but sees a valuable and promising application of flight simulation within aero-medical evacuation procedures.
Not only is Dr. Johnson’s work benefiting aero-medical evacuation teams, pilots, and pilots in training, but also the next generation of aviators through outreach to students. The team at the UW-Madison flight simulation lab has partnered with the Edgewood high school aviation program to begin developing innovative training methods early on. Johnson reported that two desktop simulators were donated to Edgewood compliments of the UW lab. In September, Johnson also participated in the Wisconsin Science Festival. This event allowed students, of all ages, to take a ride in the flight simulator and view demonstrations of the technology’s ability to create a better training program for pilots. The event was a success; over 50 students lined up to partake in the flight simulation experience.
The student outreach and community involvement that Johnson strives to achieve is one of the forces that will drive his work into the future. His company is growing and so is the market for a product like Pilot Training System. Johnson’s dedication and novel approach to pilot training have been recognized through awards and grants, which have funded Johnson in his vision. That vision is now very much a reality with a bright future and safer skies on the horizon.