In early 1969 the long range aviation plan reflected a need for modification in the way the Coast Guard conducting aircraft training. The Navy and the Air Force were diverging from the direction the Coast Guard was going and training was costing more while becoming less optimum. Headquarters authorized an initial budget of $3,000 and designated Commander Gilbert E. Brown to evaluate the effectiveness of simulation. Discussions were held with American, Brannif, Delta, and United Airlines, Flight Safety International, Embry Riddle University, the US Air Force, the US Navy and Link Flight Simulation. A lot was learned including the fact that cost would be a problem. Through Link it was learned that HumRRO (George Washington University) was producing SFTS modules (Army Hueys) to a single computer. An appointment was obtained and they assisted Commander Brown as he put together an initial study determining Coast Guard needs. The concept was presented to Coast Guard Headquarters and $330,000 was provided to do a study, present the findings, write the needed procurement specifications, develop the training syllabus and consult during implementation. A presentation was made in December 1969. It was enthusiastically received and the necessary funds to build a simulator for both the HH-52A and the HH-3F were authorized. A Variable Cockpit Training System (VCTS) was subsequently built at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile.
Commander Brown transferred to the Aviation Training Center at Mobile in the summer of 1971 and was designated the VCTS Branch Chief. In 1973 he became Chief of the Training Division.
Procurement was advertised and the contract was awarded to Reflectone. During the next 18 months development and installation at Mobile took place. Design features of the simulator were evaluated on the basis of training value per dollar and what tasks could best be done in the simulator as determined by the study. The simulators used a single computer with a high speed operating system. Each cockpit was installed with six degrees of freedom. Training lost time to maintenance remained below one percent.
Simultaneously with simulator construction the training program was prepared. Several concepts were a radical departure from the traditional methods of military pilot training. Similar to airline procedures the focus was on training objectives which could be evaluated by observing tasks that a pilot might be expected to do in the operational environment including the operating of aircraft systems in all normal and emergency conditions. The student did not need to know all components of a system. If he could not control a component from the cockpit he/she would not need to know about it. Initially there were a good number who were less than enthusiastic about this. A second concept which departed from traditional training was that of proficiency based advancement. As soon as the student performed a particular operation at the desired level, he/she would move on to the next level of difficulty. The course length was allowed to vary with the learning rate of the individual.
Advanced training capabilities included performance play back, automated demonstrations of selected maneuvers, automated performance scoring and in cockpit control of all training and environmental conditions. The instructor position allowed the simultaneous monitoring of student performance and the ability to operate the simulator controls. The instructor could intervene and freeze the simulator at any time. This allowed a real time discussion and review of student performance as it took place.
Annually, all Coast Guard helicopter pilots return to Mobile for a concentrated week of instrument and emergency procedure training. The Coast Guard was the first service to authorize instrument ratings, based solely on simulator flight. The Transition Course qualifies rated helicopter pilots in a specific aircraft utilizing both simulator and aircraft. A Qualification Course prepares fixed-wing pilots for a rotary-wing designation. The Aviation Training Center (ATC) is the standardization unit and as such edits flight handbooks, publishes newsletters, and other training material. Standardization visits are made to all air stations on a preset cycle.
The Training Center also conducts Coast Guard fixed-wing training and transition. All training for the C-130 aircraft is conducted using U.S. Air Force facilities. The HU-16 training was done solely in the aircraft. With the procurement of the HU-25, simulator training was provided.
As the HU-25 came on board and the HH-65 and the HH-60 replaced the HH-52 and the HH-3F the appropriate simulators were obtained and courses of instruction were developed. The HC-144A simulator building that is expected to be completed by the end of 2010 will house a level-D flight simulator and mission systems operator training system.
- The HU-25 operational flight trainer (OFT) became operational in March 1985. A service life extension upgrade was done in 2003 and the flight management computer (CDU) was upgraded in 2006.
- The HH-65A OFT became operational in April 1985. Configuration upgrades from the “A” to “B” model was made and in 2007 the “C” model configuration upgrade was made.
- The HH-60J OFT became operational in April 1994. This simulator transferred a substantial portion of the training burden from the aircraft to the simulator. A service life extension upgrade took place in 2005.
- A HH-60J/ HH-65B reconfigurable cockpit procedures trainer (RCPT) was acquired in 2004
- The MH-60T cockpit procedures trainer (CPT) became operational in December 2007. The MH-60T supports initial pilot transition training from the HH-60J to the MH-60T configuration.
- CADS –the computer aided debrief station. In 2005, the Aviation Training Center started using the computer aided debriefs station for post-flight simulator performance evaluations. CADS significantly enhances an instructor’s ability to reinforce Crew Resource Management principles which reduce the incident of human error related mishaps.
Initial USCG instructor training for the newly procured HC-144A “Ocean Sentry” was done by CASA in Spain. Pilot training will be done at ATC. The current plan is to build a HC-144 simulator building and level D simulator.
Commander Gilbert E. Brown Jr. USCG — Coast Guard Aviator number 795
Commander Brown was the architect of the Coast Guard Flight Simulator Training Program. Over a four year period he sought funding, oversaw design, construction and implementation of the first full motion helicopter flight simulators in the country. The Flight simulators were fully integrated with pilot training at the Aviation Training Center, Mobile, Alabama in 1972 and revolutionized Coast Guard flight training. The simulator integration reduced costs and significantly improved flight safety. The Coast Guard was the first service to authorize instrument ratings based strictly on simulator flight.
Commander Brown was inducted into the Coast Guard Aviation Hall of Honor.