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Thanks to a donation by a local aviation hobbyist, cadets in the Los Alamos chapter of the Civil Air Patrol will be able to experience the wonders of flight without leaving the ground.
Los Alamos resident Brent Budden donated a hand-built, computerized flight simulator to the patrol. Calling it a labor of love, the physicist built the impressive looking device in 2007 as a way to satisfy his love of space, as well as flying until he achieved his pilot’s license.
“Originally, I wanted a completely-enclosed simulator that I could do spaceflight in,” he said. “As I was designing it, I also decided to include atmospheric flight as well.”
The simulator is designed to roughly mimic the inside of a two-seater cockpit, with physical, built in controls the cadets should already be familiar with to run the “plane.” The “windows” include three computer monitors positioned in such a way as to mimic the view a pilot and co-pilot would see from an actual plane.
Different types of software can be loaded into the simulator. Microsoft Flight Simulator 10 and Orbiter Space Flight Simulator has already been loaded in, with plans to also load Laminar Research’s X-Plane 10 in the future.
While the main, physical control panels are mostly for space flight, the cadets should still be able to use it to familiarize themselves with atmospheric flight, as it includes a yoke (steering mechanism) and pedals as well as a special panel used for atmospheric flight. Budden added that if the CAP wanted to, the simulator can be further customized for atmospheric flight.
According to Dan Gabel, the dual-purpose simulator will be just the thing for the Los Alamos’ CAPS cadets.
“I think it will be mostly used for aerospace education,” Gabel said, adding that aerospace flight and concepts is also an important part of the cadet’s flight education.
As for atmospheric flight, Gabel also said that the students should at least be able to familiarize themselves with various flight instrumentation panels included in the various software packages.
At Monday’s local CAP meeting — which is held at the airport every Monday at 6 p.m. — the CAP presented Budden with a certificate in appreciation for his donation. There will also be a special dedication plaque mounted to the outside of the simulator crediting Budden for the donation.
Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Caleb Britton said however they use the simulator, it will be a good tool to have as part of their education.
“We could definitely use this as a tool for flight training, since some of our cadets are working on acquiring their pilot licenses,” he said.
The local CAP chapter is otherwise known as the Los Alamos Composite Squadron, and is one of the many squadron’s in the state CAP’s New Mexico Wing. The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.
The Civil Air Patrol specializes in aiding in search and rescue, survey and mapping missions. The organization also has a group of young people called “cadets,” who are organized into an officer corps similar to the U.S. Air Force.