On March 16, the Grissom Honorary Commanders were invited to check out the 434th ARW Operations Group on base. Ops Group Commander Colonel Chris Amend showed us the air traffic control center and the KC-135 flight simulator on base.
We spent the morning visiting with the expert air traffic control folks at RAPCON (Radar Approach Control) and had the chance to guide some planes to a safe landing in the ATC tower simulator. Grissom controls all air traffic up to 10,000 feet from central Indiana to Chicago. They saw a huge increase in air traffic for the Super Bowl in February but of course handled it with ease.
In the afternoon, we were in for a special treat with the opportunity to take the controls in the cockpit of the KC-135 flight simulator. It was amazing to sit in that pilot’s seat, looking out at the runway at Pearl Harbor, and lift a plane up off the ground and over the harbor. Being 8 months pregnant at the time, I opted to do my simulation without the motion, but with it on, that machine tilts back far enough to throw you back in your seat.
It was amazing how much muscle power it takes to steer the plane and bank it left and right. But once he switched on the autopilot, it’s just a matter of tapping a button. The real fun part was learning how to land. But with expert guidance from our instructor, I kept an eye on the gauges, lined up with the runway and landed her safely on the ground.
I am so honored to be part of this Honorary Commanders program and have the opportunity for these rare experiences.