LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona --
Over the past two months, major components of the new F-35
Lightning II egress trainer, an advanced replica of the F-35 cockpit designed
to simulate the mechanical layout of the ejection and emergency evacuation
system, have arrived at Luke Air Force Base.
Upon completion of the build, the third of its kind in the
nation, the trainer will be used by 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 12
instructors to train Luke’s first class of F-35 egress maintainers.
“The term ‘egress’ denotes ‘escape,’” said Staff Sgt. Edward
Cunningham, 372nd TRS Det. 12 F-16 and F-35 egress instructor. “For pilots,
egress is the ability to survive when something goes wrong. This is their
process of separating from the aircraft.”
When the live ejection system is activated, the canopy of
the aircraft’s cockpit will detach from the aircraft. With the pilot strapped
in, the seat will then catapult away from the rest of the aircraft before
deploying a parachute that will bring the pilot safely to the ground. After
activation, the entire process is automatic.
“In the old days, separating from your aircraft involved you
climbing out of the cockpit and jumping out with a parachute on your back,”
Cunningham said. “Now, you just pull a handle and the aircraft and the seat
take care of everything for you.”
Cunningham will instruct the first Luke egress maintainer
class, which is tentatively scheduled to begin in early April. Despite being a
simulated model, he says that the system is both comprehensive and effective as
a learning tool.
“We can do any component removal on the trainer, like canopy
removal or seat removal,” Cunningham said. “It allows us to cover any aspect of
the coursework in the training.”
The extreme technical accuracy of the trainer will allow
student maintainers to deeply familiarize themselves with the various aspects
of the egress system and gain first-hand knowledge of processes for maintaining
“It’s pretty cool,” said Master Sgt. Jeremy Rolin, 372nd TRS
Det. 12 egress instructor and Field Training Detachment NCO in charge. “For the
most part, everything in the cockpit or on the exterior of the trainer is
exactly identical to what is on the actual aircraft. Every switch that is in
the F-35 cockpit is in this trainer.”
In addition to its capacity to educate maintainers, the
trainer will also be used as a controlled simulation environment to familiarize
pilots with the cockpit and emergency egress system use.
“Delivery of the trainer provides student pilots familiarity
operating aircraft equipment under normal and emergency conditions, as well as
ensures valuable resources are protected by saving the real F-35's from any
unnecessary abuse caused by the repetition of continuous training,” said Maj.
Chris Duncan, 56th Training Squadron F-35 training systems chief.
“Emergency procedures training, allows pilots to exercise time-critical
emergency egress actions required for in-flight or ground emergencies.”
The F-35 platform uses technology far more advanced than
that found in older legacy jets like the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Falcon, both of
which are near 30-year-old designs. Despite this gap in advancements, Cunningham
says it’s no more challenging for maintainers to learn to work with this system
than with those of legacy jets.
“Anyone who has worked on this system so far will tell you
that it’s one of the easiest and most maintainer friendly systems we have.
There is nothing like the simplicity of the maintenance on this system, despite
its technological complexity.”
The trainer accompanies the slew of existing F-35 training
programs already in action at Luke, complimenting the base’s ability to produce
a mission-ready F-35 force capable of dealing with all tasks both on the ground
and in the air.
“The egress trainer will be incorporated into a total
training solution for F-35 pilots that already includes electronic media
lectures, interactive courseware, pilot training aids (part-task trainers), and
full mission simulators,” Duncan said. “Delivery of the F-35 egress trainer is
the final piece to completing a fully integrated system designed to train the
world's most elite F-35 fighter pilots.”