Would-be Yale pilots fly high in the (virtual) sky
Yale students can be found in every corner of the world, but only members of the Aviation Society at Yale can lay claim to the skies. With a recent gift to Yale Aviation, they now have the chance to take over the skies with any plane anywhere in the world — virtually, at least.
Last spring, a HotSeat flight simulator was donated to Yale Aviation by Jay LeBoff, the founder of HotSeat Chassis Inc. and the parent of a former Berkeley College student. The simulator is housed in the Becton Center, one of the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences buildings.
Aviation Society members are using the simulator to begin learning how to fly before they ever step foot in a cockpit. (A little background: Yale Aviation, which was formed nearly a century ago, is still open to the Yale community but no longer has any official ties to Yale. As such, undergraduate students formed the Aviation Society at Yale last September.)
Traditionally, it has taken Yale students dozens of hours of flight time and thousands of dollars to earn their pilot’s license using a number of small planes that fly out of New Haven’s Tweed Airport.
With the simulator, students will get a feel for flying before they sit in their first cockpit. It can replicate the controls and route for virtually any plane and flight path, so students can gain experience on everything from giant Boeings to the small Piper Cherokee planes that Yale Aviation uses at Tweed. They can even select a New Haven flight path and coast over a virtual rendition of the exact flight path they will follow during future lessons. (See the accompanying video.)
“We can introduce students to flying without them even having to come to the airport,” says Charlie Skelton, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and master pilot who teaches Yale professors, students and staff how to fly through Yale Aviation. “They’ll already be familiar with the instrument panels, all of the controls, the braking system.”
The simulator not only gives would-be pilots a head start, it also cuts down on the amount of wasted time due to weather or having to fly around other planes’ flight paths, Skelton said.
Ifigeneia Derekli ‘11 of Pierson College, the Aviation Society’s secretary and one of its founding members, had flown with her father a few times before coming to Yale and now takes lessons with Skelton. But she understands that not every student has the time or money to put into flight training.
“The simulator makes it much more accessible for people interested in flying,” she says, adding that she trains on the machine regularly when her scheduled real-world flights are cancelled due to the weather, which generally happens once or twice a week.
Marc Beck ‘12 of Saybrook College, the president of the Aviation Society, recognizes that the time commitment and cost of flight training can make it difficult for many students who would otherwise be interested in lessons. He believes the simulator can expose more students to the thrill of flying.
“I hope the simulator will attract attention and bring awareness to aviation on campus,” he says.
Click here to learn more about the Aviation Society at Yale.
Click here to learn more about Yale Aviation.
— By Suzanne Taylor Muzzin