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Issue Date: August 2007 Issue

F-16 Flight Simulator at Lockheed Martin

Written by Andy Netzel, Photograph by Greg Ruffing

F-16 Flight Simulator at Lockheed Martin What looks like a cockpit torn out of an F-16 Fighting Falcon sits in front of monitors inside Lockheed Martin’s Akron facility. The place is huge. It’s so big it’s referred to as “The Valley,” because it nearly fills the space between the hills that make the nearby All-American Soap Box Derby track so exciting.

Inside the cockpit, the control stick — usually between your legs in most other fighter jets — is to your right. On the left is how you control the jet’s speed. The slightest movement yields big results.

Like an old, beat-up car with alignment problems, the F-16 simulator wants to veer slightly left, fixed only by a constant handle on the control stick. Setting off a Sidewinder missile is alarmingly simple: Flip a switch to arm the missile and push the red button on the control stick.

Outside, engineers can throw problems at you, like making some of the jet’s equipment fail. Computers record all the sessions, so when a pilot finishes, he’s able to review his performance on the monitors outside and evaluate certain situations.

Lockheed Martin sells custom-built simulators to the U.S. government and the governments of approved allies. So far, no independently wealthy private citizens have asked to buy one for their basement.

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