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59th MDW upgrades flight-training technology, advances pilot safety

Maj. Jennifer Giovannetti, 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Aerospace and Physiology Flight commander, instructs a T-6 pilot instructor through a spatial disorientation trainer profile designed to induce the vestibulo-ocular reflex called nystagmus at Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, June 7. The GYRO Integrated Physiological Trainer II exposes pilots to the typical vestibular (inner ear) and visual illusions they experience during flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston/Released)

Maj. Jennifer Giovannetti, 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Aerospace and Physiology Flight commander, instructs a T-6 pilot instructor through a spatial disorientation trainer profile designed to induce the vestibulo-ocular reflex called nystagmus at Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, June 7. The GYRO Integrated Physiological Trainer II exposes pilots to the typical vestibular (inner ear) and visual illusions they experience during flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston/Released)

Brig. Gen. John A. Cherrey, Air Education and Training Command director of intelligence, operations and nuclear integration; Maj. Jennifer Giovannetti, 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Aerospace and Physiology Flight commander; and Col. Dana James, 359th Medical Group commander, cut the ribbon in front of the GYRO Integrated Physiological Trainer II during a June 7 ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph. The $1 million flight trainer prepares pilots to recognize, confirm, prevent and recover from spatial disorientation before they fly for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston/Released)

Brig. Gen. John A. Cherrey, Air Education and Training Command director of intelligence, operations and nuclear integration; Maj. Jennifer Giovannetti, 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Aerospace and Physiology Flight commander; and Col. Dana James, 359th Medical Group commander, cut the ribbon in front of the GYRO Integrated Physiological Trainer II during a June 7 ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph. The $1 million flight trainer prepares pilots to recognize, confirm, prevent and recover from spatial disorientation before they fly for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Dannella Smith, 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron aerospace and operational physiology technician, and Maj. Jennifer Giovannetti, 359th AMDS Aerospace and Physiology Flight commander, perform preflight checks before setting up a spatial disorientation illusion profile June 7 at Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph. The trainer helps pilots correctly identify the different types of air sickness they may encounter during flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Dannella Smith, 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron aerospace and operational physiology technician, and Maj. Jennifer Giovannetti, 359th AMDS Aerospace and Physiology Flight commander, perform preflight checks before setting up a spatial disorientation illusion profile June 7 at Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph. The trainer helps pilots correctly identify the different types of air sickness they may encounter during flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Huddleston/Released)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --

The 59th Medical Wing enhanced Air Force pilot safety June 7 when it unveiled a $1 million modern spatial disorientation flight trainer at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

 

The GYRO Integrated Physiological Trainer II exposes pilots to the typical vestibular (inner ear) and visual illusions they experience during flight. The trainer teaches pilots to recognize, confirm, prevent and recover from spatial disorientation before they fly for the first time.

 

Spatial disorientation, the inability to determine one’s position in an open space, can lead to a dangerous scenario inside a cockpit, explained Maj. Jennifer Giovannetti, commander of the aerospace and physiology flight with the 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron.

 

“Spatial disorientation has been a threat to our aviators since the dawn of aviation and we want to try to do something about that. It’s our job to try to be the link between safety, medical and operations in order to provide the training and education to keep our aviators safe,” Giovannetti said.

 

“The 59th Medical Wing is on a hard-charging journey to be a high-reliability organization. We look to the aviation community to learn those lessons of how we can get to zero harm. This is a great example of how we put together safety and human performance to help make sure we keep our men and women in the air safe,” said Col. Dana James, 359th Medical Group commander.

 

This trainer offers a very realistic environment for people learning to fly.

 

“You have a stick in your hand, you have pedals, you have commands coming at you, you have to maintain altitude and maintain bank. To experience the spatial disorientation while trying to do all of that, it just takes it totally to the next level,” said Tech. Sgt. Dannella Smith, 359th AMDS aerospace and operational physiology technician.

 

The trainer also provides pilot instructor trainees with hands-on experience, empowering them to prepare new student pilots for the physiological rigors of flight.

 

“When we’re talking about stability and balance – things that are happening in the middle ear – that’s the real goal. Put them in here and have them experience what they could possibly experience in flight,” said Capt. Ivan Gomez, 359th AMDS Aerospace and Physiology Flight officer in charge.

 

The ultimate goal of the trainer is to expose pilots to a variety of dangerous scenarios – things they could potentially experience in flight, without ever leaving the ground.

 

“We can simulate situations we don’t necessarily want our pilots to be put into, and it’s very realistic in comparison to what’s actually happening in the aircraft,” Gomez said.

 

In coming months, 59th MDW personnel will continue to train, becoming more proficient with the administration of the GYRO IPT II. The wing expects to train close to 200 T-6 pilot instructor trainees annually.

 

“We’ve done this in training for quite a long time, but explaining it is one thing and doing it is another. This is the first time we have the opportunity to put it all together in a high-fidelity simulator where pilots can recognize, recover and take actions that are necessary to save lives,” Giovanetti said.

 

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