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These Air Force Trainees Spend Less Time In the Cockpit, More Time In Flight Simulators

In a makeshift classroom in Austin, Tex., 20 hand-picked airmen may represent the future of Air Force pilot training. They’re spending less time in the cockpit and more time in front of screens.

They’re the first participants in Pilot Training Next, an experimental program that relies heavily on virtual reality and artificial intelligence tools. The first class graduated this month.

“We haven’t really changed our pilot training for at least 20 years,” said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. “Yet technology and our understanding of how adults learn has changed quite a bit.”

The Austin classroom houses two rows of flight simulators. But they’re a far cry from the $2 to $3 million-dollar ones the Air Force normally uses. Each unit is made from an enhanced Windows PC, an HTC Vive headset, a gaming joystick and throttle. They cost about $10,000.

KPBS.org

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