Mobile flight simulator will hit the road

Dec. 2, 2011

Henderson State University’s aviation department will soon hit the road with its new mobile flight simulator. The Dawson Education Cooperative recently secured a grant from the Arkansas Department of Career Education to help purchase the state-of-the-art simulator along with a cargo trailer.

The simulator will be used primarily for Henderson’s new distance learning program targeting high school students in Arkansas. Arkadelphia and Hot Springs Lakeside high schools are currently participating in the program, but Henderson aviation faculty members expect the program to rapidly expand across Arkansas. “We want to have a presence in other parts of the state,” said Jonathan Moss, a flight instructor at Henderson.

“There had to be some way to get these students involved by providing a flying experience,” said Moss. “With this simulator, we can bring that experience to them. It fits what we are trying to do with our program.”

Moss said he expects to start using the simulator on a regular basis next semester. “We’re still working on the final touches, including lesson preparation and operating procedures,” he said. “We hope for each student to receive four hours per semester in the simulator.”

The total cost for the simulator, trailer, generator and other accessories was about $67,000. The grant provided $56,000, and Henderson paid the remainder, Moss said. Redbird Flight Simulations Inc. in Austin, Texas, manufactured the simulator and mounted it inside the trailer. Decals depicting a Henderson airplane were applied to the trailer. A “quiet” generator provides power to the simulator and the climate-control system, although it can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet.

The simulator is similar to a full-motion two-seat simulator installed at Henderson’s Caplinger Airway Science Center in 2010. Both feature realistic controls and instruments, along with six LCD computer monitors that form a wraparound visual system. The only difference between the two simulators is that the mobile version doesn’t have the full-motion feature.

The distance learning program is a cooperative effort between Henderson, Dawson and the high schools. The classes originate from Arkadelphia High School and the cooperative. “We can teach to multiple classrooms at once using two-way interaction and various media,” Moss said. Dawson employs an instructor for the program, and will also provide funding for a simulator instructor.

While the Dawson co-op owns the mobile simulator, Henderson will “pretty much” have exclusive use of it, according to Moss. “It’s used for their approved program of study. It’s win-win for everybody,” he said. “It’s great that Dawson offers this type of program.”

The simulator will also be used to promote Henderson’s aviation department at various events. “But it won’t be a carnival ride,” said Moss, adding that the simulator’s operator will be selective about who uses it.

“We still have some logistics issues to work out, and there’s a limit to how much we can do,” Moss said. “It’s resource-intensive, but it’s all part of the process.”

Henderson’s four-year aviation program offers three career tracks, including: professional pilot, aviation management, and aviation maintenance management. A minor in aviation is also available.

The program prepares students for the professional aviation workplace. The professional pilot track takes students with no flight experience and provides them with the education and flight training required to become a professional pilot, such as an airline or corporate pilot. The aviation management track is for students wishing to work at the management level in the aviation industry without being a commercial pilot. The maintenance management track is for students who already possess an FAA aircraft and powerplants certificate and wish to complete a bachelor's degree in aircraft maintenance management.

For more information about Henderson's aviation program, please go to

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