Warplanes: No Two-Seater F-22s

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March 16,2008: The new U.S. F-22 jet fighter is unique in many ways. But for such an expensive aircraft, it's also notable that there are no two seat versions. All previous U.S. single-seat fighters had a few two-seater versions so pilots-in-training could go up with an instructor in the back seat, just in case. But the air force examined its training records and discovered that simulators, and training methods in general, were getting better and better over the years. Most instructor pilots agreed that it would not be risky to let pilots take their first solo ride in a single-seater. Thus there are no two seat versions of the F-22. Instead, trainee pilots spend more time in the usual full fidelity simulator (an actual F-22 cockpit, surrounded by a video system providing 360 degree hi-def graphics.)

Just to be on the safe side, the first F-22 pilots were those who already had a lot of air time (over 1,500 hours) in F-16s and F-15s. But now the training program is taking many pilots with only 600 hours in other fighters. As a test, there are also four pilots right out of basic flight training. These were the ones at the top of their class. Still, these pilots have less than a hundred hours in the air, and will soon take their first F-22 flight in a single seat aircraft.

When these solo flights take place, there is an instructor pilot nearby, flying another F-22. A second instructor pilot is on the ground, checking the status of the trainee pilots aircraft, and radioing advice or warnings as needed. But neither instructor pilot can take over the controls of the trainee's aircraft, as was the case in two seater fighters. The four green trainees will solo in about six months.

 


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