Trading trains for planes: Purdue students prepare for aviation career with high-tech flight simulator

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Boilermakers are trading trains for planes. Purdue University has a new state-of-the-art flight simulator for aviation students. The flights are so real that at times you almost forget you're not in the air.

The device costs up to $30 million, and it prepares students to step into a cockpit. Commercial airliners across the country are seeing a pilot shortage. The university says it's the perfect time to start an aviation career.

"There's not an airline that's not been effected by it yet," said Purdue Assistant Professor Jason Cutter.

He believes the shortage is from pilots reaching at the mandatory retirement age and there not being as much of an influx of pilots from former military members or incoming students.

"We are told that all the time, that you guys are going into the industry at the best time possible," said aviation student Michael Carmosino.

The Hawker 900XP simulator can put a pilot in any airport around the country, and it can even recreate weather conditions or equipment failure. It's all presented through the windows of the "air craft". All the equipment reacts as a real airplane would.

"[We can] simulate a lot of conditions in here that just are not safe to do, or not practical to do, in the airplane," Cutter said.

"Unbeatable experience," said Carmosino. "As close to the real world as possible.”

Students at Purdue typically get to test out the new machine in their junior or senior year.

If you want to learn more about the Flight Simulator and Purdue’s Aviation Program, check out the extended interview with Jason Cutter as a part of FOX59/CBS4’s Full Steam Ahead: A Podcast About Purdue’s latest episode:

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