Army to kick off virtual reality pilot training program in April

The U.S. Army will kick off in April a program to test just how effective virtual reality and simulation may be in training students to fly helicopters, with hopes the results could offer a strategy to improve its curriculum and get more would-be pilots in the air faster.

The effort comes in part to better position the Army to meet more ambitious training requirements that the service hopes will combat the ongoing struggle to head off a pilot shortage.

“When there’s been no appreciable increase in the number of simulators or aircraft here to train, every touch point on an aviation platform — simulator or live — is critical,” Maj. Gen. William Gayler, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) and Fort Rucker, said in an interview with Defense News. “Leveraging virtual reality with eventually some artificial intelligence, and some cognitive aiding technologies, are going to produce a far better product because there will be more frequency and repetition on those platforms.

“You may find that it also allows you to increase the throughput velocity through flight school, meaning they’re going to learn tasks quicker, they’re going to retain them longer. And if that translates into less time in flight school and less blade hours, that logically means less money because we pay for student training by blade hours.”

Defense News visited Fort Rucker while traveling with