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VR simulation allows Hill museum visitors to pilot A-10 ‘Warthog’

By Deborah Wilber - | Jan 19, 2022
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An A-10 Thunderbolt II is pictured inside Hill Aerospace Museum on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. A simulated flight of the aircraft is available to the public at the Education Center inside the museum.
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The Virtual Reality A-10 Flight Experience at Hill Aerospace Museum is pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. The virtual reality flight simulation is the museum's newest feature at the Education Center inside the museum.
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An A-10 Thunderbolt II is pictured inside the Hill Aerospace Museum on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. A simulated flight of the aircraft is available to the public at the Education Center inside the museum.
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A sign with information on the A-10A Thunderbolt II is pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. A simulated flight of the aircraft is available to the public at the Education Center inside the Hill Aerospace Museum.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The ability for ordinary folks to fly over mountains and valleys in Utah’s West Desert in an A-10 Thunderbolt II is now a reality — a virtual reality — at Hill Aerospace Museum.

For $15, users can experience four individual flight segments: take off, low-level mountain flying, acrobatics and landing, or the entire flight from start to finish for 25 minutes.

Amel McGill, a museum volunteer, said he had to sit in the exhibit chair for five minutes without the VR headset on to get rid of the vertigo. He remembers looking down during the flight when the pilot stood the aircraft on its side.”It’s no worse than riding on a rollercoaster,” he said.

Flight experience times vary, with limited museum staff trained to operate the simulation. The next opportunity to virtually fly the famous aircraft nicknamed the “Warthog” is Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free, but masks are required to enter the facility.

The simulation was developed and created as a collaborative effort among the museum, the 514th Flight Test Squadron and the 2nd Audio Visual Squadron.

Lt. Col. Kevin Belcher, 514th FTS, was equipped with 360-degree cameras strapped to his head and chest during a real-world test flight over the Utah Test and Training Range for the simulation, according to Raelyn Embleton, museum education director.

“The experience begins with a brief introduction of the pilot and the 514th mission, to give the public a better idea of what HAFB does and further educate visitors about the many diverse and interesting missions that are accomplished here,” she said.

According to McGill, the museum is trying to coordinate a virtual flight experience for an F-16A, the “Fighting Falcon.”

Hill Aerospace Museum is regarded as one of Utah’s premier attractions with more than 90 military aircraft, missiles and aerospace vehicles.

Founded in 1982 as part of the U.S. Air Force Heritage Program, the museum opened to the public in 1987, with 350,000 visitors annually coming from every state and many foreign countries.

Educating and inspiring all ages through history, with a focus on the Air Force, HAFB, Utah Aviation and unique learning experiences is the museum’s stated mission. All volunteers have flown, worked on or been associated with one or more of the museum’s aircrafts, McGill said.

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