EAA Chapter 54

St. Paul, MN. (Lake Elmo)

Sim Pits

Sim Pits and Flight Simulators
Presented by Jeff Dale, EAA Chapter 54 member
May 13, 2024

Jeff Dale's latest sim pit

Jeff Dale acknowledges he's not a certificated pilot, though he'd like to be one of these days. But his ability to fly will probably come because his Dad moved the family to Japan when he was young. "My dad's company was going to buy us a new home computer. We had one my dad used for grad school, but the new computer we were getting was going to have a mouse. And it was going to have the new Windows 95." 

Hubba hubba.

That computer, with that spiffy mouse and Windows 95, unlocked a passion, he told the May 13 meeting of EAA Chapter 54, "because it meant we'd be able to play video games on it." 

Granted it took a little bit more. A war, for one. When returning home from Afghanistan, the pilots of his ride back home invited soldiers to take turns sitting in the cockpit jump seat.

"And at 40 000 feet, we're watching dawn break over the United States," he recalled. "You can see the weather fronts moving. It was a very poignant experience. What also is special about that, though, that was the first time that I had a little voice in the back of my head that said, 'You know, it'd be really cool to be a pilot."

Not long after, he left the Army and married his wife, Jamie. They had a son. But you may leave the military, but the military never really leaves you. "I was looking for something to do on a rare day off, and I had seen a YouTube video of  a group of people flying together in a flight simulator and they had a briefing and then they went started up their jets, taxied, and took off, did their thing, came back and debriefed. And that was the second time that voice kind of showed back up in my head and I was like, 'That's cool. I want to do it.'"

And that's how he met flight simulation.

He started simulation flying with the group and over time more realism - both in platforms, software, and technique  - took hold.  "What joint task force one strives to do is conduct air campaigns, following realistic, procedures, realistic doctrine, and what have you.  The 55th took that a step further, and  went ahead and we started doing more things like flying approaches and departures the correct way,  flying through controlled airspace properly and things like that."

He started designing a sim pit, then another, and another.

"Let's say we're going to do some air-to-ground work. The air-to-ground ranges are to the west of the Sally corridor. So, as we go down the line a little bit further, we're going to be making a 90-degree left turn and really it's going to be just a giant 180° hook," he demontrated.  "Essentially, setting up your office to be ready for combat to be ready for doing what you're about to do, arming weapons, and changing various states. Now, in the  F-15 seat, the exterior lights control panel is down here by your left, hip and part of your fence is to turn off your exterior lights. Similar to the radio situation, we're going to need to use our mouse but again remember we're turning in a formation flight of four aircraft."

In short, flying is not a two-dimension endeavor that is given to realism on a flat screen in front of you.  "You can't click what you can't see," Dale pointed out. "That means I'm actually going to have to look at my hip to be able to see the panel to be able to click on it, which is not a good thing because then if the flight lead levels out and I don't, bad things happen.  That's, again, where having a sim pit makes the difference, because now I can reach down by my hip, I can flip those switches. I keep my eyes on the plane lead, I keep my hands on the stick."

Jeff Dale presents a program on sim pits at the EAA Chapter 54 meeting on May 13, 2024

Jeff Dale says he's now designed six versions of a sim pit.

"How much do you have invested in this?" an audience member asked.

A lot.

"I actually have separate pools of money," Dale said, "where I put money for flight training, and I put money for this.  This is equally as important a hobby to me." 

"And you can't medical out of it." 


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