Simulator prepares boom operators for in-flight emergencies

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexander Schriner,
  • 155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska Air National Guard

LINCOLN AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. – In the old engine shop building, behind a pair of double doors, sits a giant gray machine replicating the back of a KC-135R Stratotanker. The instructor sets up a simulation at a desk filled with computer screens while a boom operator marks off tasks and gets ready. Welcome to the Boom Operating Simulator System.

Since 2014, the BOSS has helped with the 155th Air Refueling Wing’s training and readiness by providing boom operators with scenarios to qualify in areas that may not be available until a deployment.

“They can train on malfunctions, emergency procedures and abnormal situations that you can’t duplicate while you’re flying,” said Gene Ernst, a simulator technician with Delaware Resource Group. “Units didn’t always have these simulators around, so sometimes all you could do was talk through the steps to take in those situations.”

The BOSS benefits Airmen like Staff Sgt. Audrey Levey, 155th Air Refueling Wing boom operator.

“There’s no way to effectively emulate some of the emergency scenarios on an actual flight without it getting dangerous, so that has helped me with my training,” Levey said. “It can prepare us for certain kinds of receivers we may not see very often and help us run through the checklists of procedures.”

The BOSS has an array of possibilities to put boom operators through.

“I can replicate any time of day, type of weather or how a jet is flying,” Ernst said. “Additionally, we have the ability to refuel anything in the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and select NATO aircraft on the system.”

Simulating many conditions has prepared Levey for a few real flights.

“The biggest thing it has prepared me for is breakaways, which is if something goes wrong such as turbulence and there needs to be immediate separation,” Levey said. “You don’t have time to think, you just do, so that has saved me.”

The BOSS system will be receiving a new upgrade that will provide the operators more realistic scenarios and better training.

“It’s going to make the simulator more reliable, realistic and Airmen will receive better training from it,” Ernst said. “The software we have now is around 10 years old, so this will be a nice update.”

The BOSS is just one part of the piece when it comes to making the whole picture at the 155th ARW, said Ernst.

“I’ve been a boom instructor since 2011, and the differences from then to now are like night and day when it comes to the training and readiness,” Ernst said. “Having the BOSS better prepares the 155th ARW for key missions and day-to-day operations they carry out.”