Virtual reality training — for pilots, maintainers and more — expands in 2020

Second Lt. Kenneth Soyars, a 14th Student Squadron student pilot, takes off during a virtual reality flight simulation in January 2018 at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. (Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb/Air Force)

One of the top priorities of Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, the newly minted head of Air Education and Training Command, will be expanding the Air Force’s experiment with virtual reality training.

So far, the Air Force has had success with Pilot Training Next, which uses VR, biometrics and artificial intelligence to better teach aspiring pilots how to fly.

Webb is eyeing similar technologies, under the name Learning Next, to improve other forms of technical training. This could include teaching airmen how to maintain aircraft, fly remotely piloted aircraft or perform other technical tasks.

These programs allow students’ education to proceed more at their own pace, since they are based on competency and are not tied to a timetable, Wright said. A student who already has the fundamentals down can skip the basics and go right to what he or she needs to learn.