Charmayne Owens and Ace Chew took flight in a new flight simulator located at Sisters Airport. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
Charmayne Owens and Ace Chew took flight in a new flight simulator located at Sisters Airport. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

Outlaw Aviation hosted an open house event on Saturday at Sisters Eagle Airport to celebrate their new FAA-certified Modular Flight Deck Advanced Training Flight Simulator (sim) donated by the Aviation Department at Central Oregon Community College (COCC).

The sim will be used for the SHS Flight Science program by students that are working toward their private pilot's license.

Julie Benson, Sisters Eagle Airport owner and founder of Outlaw Aviation, asked for the retired flight simulator from COCC. It's now in the Outlaw Aviation hangar at the Sisters Airport, ready for flight students to use after school.

"What's really great about this space at the airport is kids who really want to fly come here after school and hang out while working on their private pilot preparation," Benson said. "They also get hours on their log book on the sim, while Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) Walt Lasecki or Sam Monte sign them off. It's instruction time. It keeps their head in the game and gives them knowledge and experience."

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. community members were invited to take the yoke inside the sim and attempt a simulated landing of the Outlaw Cessna 172 with co-pilot Charmayne Owens, a flight class student at SHS who has her student pilot's license.

"I've already tried the sim a bunch of times," said Owens, smiling. "The simulator really gives you the realistic feel of what you're supposed to be doing inside a plane. And it's really a great comparison to an actual plane. It gives you more of a challenge because there is less adjustment time, so it sets you up for the real thing."

"In a real airplane you have a little bit of a delay with your controls, and the sim is very sensitive, so you really have to be on your game in this or you lose control," noted Benson.

Sheryl Yeager, FAA Certified Flight Instructor and Flight Science teacher, was also on hand to answer any questions about the sim. Yeager, who's had a pilot's license since 1999, tried the new sim a month ago.

"It's really awesome, you have control, and everything responds," Yeager told The Nugget. "It's so realistic. Students can even practice emergency procedures safely on the ground." 

First one in the sim was young "Ace" Chew, the grandson of Gene Garton, a retired military pilot. Garton watched as his grandson guided the plane up into the wild blue yonder.

CFI Lasecki was nearby the computer that controls everything pilots were seeing while in the simulator.

"You can control the weather, the time of day and the location for the person 'flying' in the sim. Such as having to land your plane at the Atlanta, Georgia airport during a rain storm," Lasecki said. "You can actually fly anywhere in the world in this sim. You can also change the plane you're flying to something other than the Cessna 172 that we normally use for training. But we use it in a certified mode and the FAA limits what we can do."

Students can practice flying into a city they've never been before with a visual of the way it really looks, so when they really fly there in their real plane, they've already "done" it.

Chris Schneider from Redmond has always had an interest in aviation and after flying in the sim, he said, "I think it handled so realistically," Schneider said. "It's not something that anyone could just jump into and know what to do. So, I was glad there was a co-pilot. She even helped me understand a little bit of the instrument panel."

Karl Baldesarri of the COCC aviation program joined the open house for a presentation about career opportunities in the aviation field.

"The neat thing about the flight program and sim in Sisters, for me, is that it continues to show how Sisters school system - or the high school specifically - is a little more unique than other schools," Baldesarri said. "When I was a kid some of us dreamed about being a pilot, but it wasn't realistic. And the pool of perspective pilots shrunk. Right now, the aviation industry is seeing unprecedented times. And I think we're in a time where programs like this can lead into a valid career opportunity for anybody that's interested. Countries are starting bigger connections to each other. Some areas of the world are just starting to break into the 21st century by connecting, and aviation is the way to do it."

COCC has recently signed agreements with Horizon Airlines and SkyWest Airlines to provide scholarships for students enrolled in the aviation program.