Military News

Monday, August 10, 2015

Boom simulator preps students for refueling mission

by Senior Airman Dillon Davis
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


8/10/2015 - ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Altus Air Force Base is home to one of the most advanced systems used to train future U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft boom operators.

The Boom Operator Weapons System Trainer is a simulator used by boom operator students here at Altus AFB to provide hands-on training before they even leave the ground. The simulated training allows the students to run through nearly any scenario possible and tests their abilities to respond appropriately to a variety of challenges they may encounter during an actual refueling mission.

"The BOWST saves approximately $217,603 per student in flight hours," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Vesser, 97th Training Squadron boom operator instructor. "This is because we were able to reduce our flying requirement by three sorties and move that training into the BOWST."

Aside from the obvious cost-saving reasons for simulator training, the BOWST ensures that boom operator students are better prepared to handle in-flight refueling. The students are able to hone their skills in a risk-free environment; therefore, they are able to make "rookie" mistakes without endangering lives or Air Force assets.

"As a boom operator, you are not only responsible for accomplishing the mission, but you are predominantly responsible for the lives onboard your aircraft and the receiving aircraft," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Mary Claire Bolo, 203rd Air Refueling Squadron boom operator student, Hawaii Air National Guard. "Like anything else, things can go wrong and the BOWST gives us the opportunity to recognize, be aware and calmly correct the conditions that are deemed unsafe."

Each boom operator student completes a total of 16 BOWST training simulations before they take to the skies. The required simulations test the Airmen on a variety of different possible scenarios they may encounter while refueling other aircraft.

"This is where we apply what we've learned in the classroom setting on a KC-135 boom operator simulator," said Bolo. "We go through multiple abnormal and normal operating procedures until our instructors feel we are proficient and ready for the real deal. Being in the BOWST broadens our situational awareness in all aspects of flight for when we, the boom operators, are in control of the aircraft."

The classroom instruction gives students the knowledge necessary to safely perform the air refueling mission, however, it is not until they reach the BOWST portion of their training that they are able to put that knowledge into action and reaction.

"The most important thing I'll be taking away from the BOWST is the malfunction procedures," said Bolo. "We work closely with our instructors, who are prior boom operators, and they share with us their knowledge and expertise on what to expect once we become operational."

The boom operators in training get to learn their craft from highly qualified and experienced instructors who were previously boom operators.

"The BOWST also gives the instructor an opportunity to explain in detail and even pause the scenario to discuss the procedures throughout the training event," said Brian Buss, boom operator instructor.

Simulators, in conjunction with expert instructors, have not only improved training efficiency, but also the quality of training received here at the 97th Training Squadron.

"The BOWST portion of training, I feel, is absolutely necessary to accomplish as a boom operator student," said Bolo. "If I didn't first fly the BOWST, I wouldn't feel comfortable at all stepping on an aircraft."

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