Putting you in the pilot's seat

ROTC incorporates virtual reality flight simulator for aspiring aviators

By Mbulelo Maqungo
On February 28, 2020

Photo by Cora Bishoppetty:
An ROTC cadet demonstrates how to use the VR set, which is accessible to all students in the program.


ASU’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 847 on Feb. 17 add­ed a virtual reality headset to their mock aircraft system for cadets in the program.

The practice setup was upgraded with an Oculus Rift S, one of the newest VR headsets from Facebook’s subsidiary com­pany Oculus.

The joystick and other pe­ripherals are designed with flight instruments that are modeled af­ter real aircrafts currently used by the United States Air Force and allow the user to have a more immersive experience. Origi­nally, the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog was designed with three television screens that provided a static view of the virtual interface called Prepar3D, but with the im­plementation of the headset, the user can have total seamless con­trol of their perspective.

“While we got the Oculus at the end of January, we didn’t realize how many compatibility issues we compensated for with the original three monitors,” se­nior James Ochello said. “It took us some time to reorganize the HOTAS to be compatible with the headset.”

Ochello is one of few up­perclassmen cadets in detach­ment 847 aspiring to be a pilot after he commissions from the ROTC program.

“Sometimes we receive in­coming cadets who are interested in piloting, but were ill-equipped with tools or experienced when it comes time to be tested here or in initial flight training,” Ochello said. “So, besides its usefulness as a recruiting tool, it can also expose potential pilots to some concepts earlier than I was.”

Freshman cadet Jackson Mumme said he has always had aeronautical interests and can al­ways be found in the detachment either on the simulator or help­ing others use it.

“I’ve loved planes, heli­copters, you name it, for as long as I can remember,” Mumme said. “The HOTAS is one of my favorite devices to learn with here.”

Alumni from the pro­gram were also proud to hear about the incorporation of tech­nology in the education of fu­ture airmen, according to 2nd Lt. Elena Clark, an ASU alumna.

“When I heard, I thought it was such awesome news,” Clark said. “ASU’s detachment is unique in the variety of op­portunities it offers to incoming students.”

Clark graduated from ASU in 2019 where only one other officer commissioned to be a pilot.

“Any new way to keep cadets engaged in the program is a big step forward, so when I hear about cadets in the pro­gram using this simulator, or going to jump school to learn how to parachute out of planes, or even attending leadership conferences, I can’t help but feel proud of where I came from,” she said.

Senior Mackenzie Weaver said she didn’t see many cadets show interest in the flight simula­tor when she was an underclass­man, but she thinks with the VR headset, more cadets will be in­terested.

“I really don’t have the words to say how much better this new setup is,” Ochello said. “This simulator introduces im­portant skills that could be useful to everyone here, pilot or not.”

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