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171st ARW Eagerly Awaits KC-135 Stratotanker Simulator Arrival

Aircraft Hangar 304 at the 171st Air Refueling Wing near Pittsburgh undergoes construction in preparation for the addition of a flight simulator April 15, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan A. Conley)

Aircraft Hangar 304 at the 171st Air Refueling Wing near Pittsburgh undergoes construction in preparation for the addition of a flight simulator April 15, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan A. Conley)

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. -- The 171st Air Refueling Wing will be receiving a KC-135 Stratotanker simulator, which is projected to be operational on its base located outside of Pittsburgh by Dec. 1, 2016.

The simulator, which was awarded to the 171st ARW by Air Mobility Command, will be coming from Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire.

The 171st has been talking to AMC for over a decade about acquiring a simulator. Since Pease ANG base is receiving KC-46 airplanes, they no longer have a need for a KC-135 simulator. The only question was: where would it go?

A base with a simulator is able to train four squadrons, so the answer seemed like an easy one to members of the 171st ARW.

"Since we have two squadrons, and every other National Guard Wing has only one squadron, it only made sense financially that we should receive the simulator," said Lt. Col. Timothy T. Waugaman, 171st ARW Operations Group Chief of Training.

Instead of having three squadrons travelling to a base to train, there would only be two coming to Pittsburgh. This is a tremendous savings in travel and housing costs for the Air Force.

Besides saving money, safety is a huge benefit of the simulator according to Waugaman.

"It is full motion and can simulate everything we do in an airplane at a lower cost and a safer environment," stated Waugaman. "It can simulate a myriad of things that can go wrong with the airplane, a few that we cannot even practice in the air. For instance, having all engines fail at once. This is something we are not able to practice in an airplane."

Having a simulator on base for training has many benefits according to Lt. Col. Jim M. Swanik, 171st ARW Operations Support Squadron Commander.

"Twice a year, our pilots would need to fly to Milwaukee for three days of training," said Swanik. "Instead, they will now be able to save time and money by training here."
The amount saved by the Air Force is significant.

"The cost for flying a tanker is between $10,000 - $14,000 per hour," stated Swanik. "The potential savings for the Air Force is very beneficial."

Before utilizing the simulator, however, the 171st ARW needs to prepare a facility to house the unit.

The construction of the building is Phase I of a three-phase process. Work on the installation began Feb. 2, 2016 and is slated to be completed Sep. 29, 2016.

The cost of construction is approximately $3.5 million according to Captain Jeremy K. Ketter, 171st ARW Deputy Base Engineer.

Clark Contracting is building the facility and CAE is the company that will run the training plans once the simulator is operational.

Phase II of the operation is the actual set-up of the simulator. This step should take around 30 days to complete. Phase III involves installing fire suppression by Clark Contracting and quality assurance by CAE.  This will verify the simulator is fully operational and working safely.

Once installed and operational, the KC-135 Stratotanker simulator will be a valuable training tool for the 171st pilots and a financial benefit to the Air Force.