The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is graduating CC-130J aircrew and maintenance technicians using advanced simulation-based training systems at a nearly new facility two hours’ drive east of Toronto. Five years into a long-term program with training and simulation provider CAE, the service aims to double the number of first officers it produces annually at the Air Mobility Training Centre (AMTC) in Trenton, Ontario.
“We can inundate the students with every imaginable error,” said Lt. Col. Brent Hoddinott, commanding officer with the 426 Training Squadron at Trenton. Explaining the value of simulation-based training, he added: “If we see the pilots are able to handle the load they’ve got in the sim, we can add more stuff so that they get to the point where they’re uncomfortable. Doing that to the students is worth its weight in gold because we’re not doing it in the aircraft and, frankly, we couldn’t do that in the aircraft. We can’t fire missiles at them, or triple A; we can’t simulate engine fires and loss of engines in the air. That’s where the value is.”
A typical CC-130J crew complement consists of two pilots and a loadmaster. The AMTC produces 12 to 14 first officers, eight aircraft commanders and 12 to 14 loadmasters annually. Plans call for graduating twice the number of first officers, Hoddinott said.
The Canadian government awarded CAE (Stand 1335) a C$329.5 million ($260 million) contract in 2009 under the Operational Training Systems Provider (OTSP) program to supply training systems and services at Trenton for the RCAF’s 17 new CC-130J Super Hercules tactical airlift aircraft, and at Petawawa for its 15 Boeing CH-147F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.
In the first three years of the CC-130J component of the contract, CAE designed a training suite that includes two Level D full-mission simulators, one tactical flight training device (TFTD) and three Simfinity integrated procedures trainers (IPTs). Under a 2010 contract from C-130J manufacturer Lockheed Martin, CAE developed a maintenance technician training system that includes a CC-130J fuselage trainer for loadmasters, repurposed from the retired C-130E Hercules by Cascade Aerospace of Abbotsford. Canada's Department of National Defence completed construction of the AMTC at Trenton, which the RCAF formally dedicated in 2012.
CAE since then has provided in-service support of the CC-130J aircrew training program under the 20 year second phase of the OTSP program. The Montreal-based company invited media to see the AMTC in early November, giving reporters an opportunity to see what CAE describes as one of the world’s most advanced and innovative aviation training facilities.
Tactical Training Facility
In addition to the 17 CC-130J four-engine turboprops it uses for tactical and strategic airlift duties, the RCAF operates 13 older CC-130H models for search-and-rescue (SAR) missions. Of these, two are modified with the necessary plumbing for aerial refueling of CF-18 Hornet fighters. The service plans to replace the H-models with 16 Airbus C295W twin turboprops beginning in 2019. CC-130H and CC-115 Buffalo (de Havilland Canada DHC-5) training will then convert to C295W training at Canadian Forces Base Comox on Vancouver Island, which will become a SAR center of excellence, Hoddinott said.
The CC-130J replaced the CC-130H’s Allison T-56-A-15 engines with more powerful Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 engines; introduced GE-Dowty Aerospace R391 six-blade, variable-pitch composite propellers; and replaced the instrument panel with a glass cockpit featuring four L-3 Communications flat-panel, multifunction displays and dual Rockwell Collins head-up displays, among other improvements. Compared to its predecessor, the Super Hercules requires a shorter takeoff roll, climbs faster to a higher cruise altitude (28,000 feet) to evade ground threats, and flies further at a higher cruise speed.
The qualification phase of training a basic pilot to earn a type rating on the CC-130J covers 325 hours—204 hours in the classroom and 121 hours (37 percent of the total) on various simulation devices, according to numbers Hoddinott presented. There is no required time to fly the actual aircraft. The follow-on mission phase covers 250 hours (162 in the classroom, 88 on simulators), plus 60 hours on the aircraft accompanied by loadmaster candidates.
Total hours for the CC-130J “combat ready” course over two phases comprises 369 hours in the classroom, 209 hours on simulator devices and 60 hours flying. The simulator hours represent one-third of all hours.
Pilot candidates progress from increasingly sophisticated IPTs to the TFTD to the full-mission simulators. Marlon Klasson, a CAE flight evaluation pilot, said the company and the RCAF have developed 33 different lesson plans for the qualification phase and 22 for the mission phase, spread across the three devices.
CAE pilots flew the two full-mission simulators in electronically connected “link mode” to demonstrate a tactical air-drop formation of two CC-130Js. While flying a simulated circuit around the Trenton base, pilots maintained separation using radio frequency-based Station-Keeping Equipment. A computed air position system displayed own-ship position relative to the wingman and emitted an aural “conflict” warning when the two aircraft came too close within a pre-defined radius.
In the left seat of one of the simulators, chief instructor pilot Trent Hunter performed a low-level “tactical arrival” to the airfield. “We train people to fly comfortably at 200 feet so they can avoid detection,” said Hunter. The aircraft must be “stable” at about 100 feet agl for pilots to commit to landing, he explained.
While experience in the simulator is highly valued, it doesn’t negate the need to spend time in the aircraft. The 2 Canadian Air Division responsible for RCAF training and education is studying the “negative training aspect” of simulation that can manifest when pilots respond to emergencies in a simulator differently than in the aircraft, Hoddinott said.
“There is value to strapping on the airplane and taking it flying,” he said. “Pilots don’t have the fear of God that they can crash in the sim, [so] they handle emergencies differently. It’s about just progressing through the checklist. They know once they get to the end of the checklist, everything works out. But if you’re at 1,000 feet in the circuit in Trenton and you have that same emergency, your reaction is completely different.”