SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Doing something the same way isn’t always the best way to do business.
Instructors in the 364th Training Squadron’s aircraft hydraulics systems course came to that conclusion about four years ago when they realized that they were teaching Airmen in Training the same materials and using the same training systems they had learned on years ago. It was an archaic method used to teach tech-savvy Airmen.
After countless hours and years of work, Airmen going through the training program now are reaping the benefits of a revamped course that implements a reshuffled curriculum, technology and realistic training that produces a better-prepared hydraulics Airman.
DeJuan Wallace, an instructor supervisor in the course, said that after the self-realization moment in 2013, the first step in the process was to find C-130 airframes. Once they had the equipment, he said, then they could build the new course.
After the 982nd Maintenance Squadron coordinated to have the aircraft converted to trainers and to have the wings removed, a crew from Randolph Air Force Base came to Sheppard AFB and began work to transform the C-130s into usable trainers to meet the needs of the curriculum as well as to fit them both into Hangar 1010.
Wallace, who spent more than 20 years in hydraulics in the Air Force and has worked as a civilian for 15 years, said it was “no easy feat” working through the process, making sure everything lined up properly and pieces fit together.
Tech. Sgt. Kyle Beisner, an instructor supervisor, said they were required to stay within their training guidelines while modifying the course, but they could enhance and modernize the course.
“We did do a lot of changing,” the 13-year hydraulics veteran said. “We changed around our order of how we taught things.”
Master Sgt. Timothy Covey, an instructor in the course, added, “(We) turned it into a life cycle from the fundamentals to learning the hydraulics systems to doing an operational check to (removing and replacing) a component and taking that component to the back shop, overhauling it and testing it in the back shop.”
The “life cycle” requires Airmen to retain information from one block of instruction to the next, continually building on what they’re learning.
Beisner said another driving factor in deciding on C-130s as the primary trainer for the course was that the use of T-38 Talons to train Airmen wasn’t realistic. He said Airmen won’t work on T-38s after they leave Sheppard.
“The idea is the C-130 is one of the most common aircraft,” he said, adding that 30-35 percent of hydraulics Airmen will work on that airframe. “It gave a lot more of a realistic approach to what they’re going to see on the flightline – actual components – whereas T-38s were just so far away from what they’re going to see that we needed a change.”
It took about three years for the process to play out and the new course to be validated on May 8. Beisner said they were able to teach the rearranged curriculum for about eight to 10 months find flaws or change the timeline on some of the blocks of training in the 49-academic day course.
While the number of training days didn’t change, the course did go from five blocks of instruction and eight to 12 days of training per block to eight blocks with the longest one being seven days. Beisner said that enhances training because smaller amounts of information is being taught per block.
Another enhancement to the course is the introduction of technology to the classroom.
In the past, instructors were basically passing on conceptual knowledge of how hydraulic fluid flowed through an aircraft because they didn’t have a trainer that provided a visualization of the process. But, with the Interactive Multimedia Instruction, a touchscreen trainer developed by the 82nd Training Wing Instructional Technology Unit and the Public Affairs Office’s Digital Design Lab, students are now able to see the fluid move throughout a system, working from one component to the next.
Beisner said they’ve received mixed reviews from the students on the technology, but explained they haven’t fully grasped the concept and purpose behind the IMI. He said today’s hydraulics Airmen are getting a more in-depth operational look at how the systems work.
“It’s an enhancement for them,” he said. “They’ll understand once they get out to the field and really see what the benefits of (the IMI) are.”
Wallace said the old course was good in its day, but the revamped program provides more information through a better process, “giving them what they need and none of what they don’t need.” He said the course is well-thought out and produces a better hydraulics Airman for the Air Force.