The current indefinite grounding
of most (except for the F-15E) F-15 fighters is leaving pilots fearful of
losing their combat and operational chops. Most F-15 pilots spend 10-20 hours a
month in the air. Some pilots must get in the air at least once every 30 days
to retain their qualifications for the F-15. To take up the slack, F-15 flight
simulators are operating more hours, some of them practically round the clock.
Although the contractor personnel running the simulators are obligated to run
the equipment only so many hours a month, most are ignoring that. The
contractors tend to be former, or retired, F-15 pilots, and feel an obligation
to run the equipment as long as they can get away with it, to provide F-15
pilots with needed practice. Usually, the simulators are run mainly to train
for emergency situations, or dangerous operations in general. The simulators
are also used to help new pilots of other aircraft (like F-16s) get familiar
with the F-15. But now, many pilots are trying to maintain their skills on the
simulators. It will be interesting to see what impact that has, once the F-15s
are allowed back into the air.