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updated: 5/22/2014 2:15 PM

Fighter pilot simulator keeps enthusiasts flying

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  • Kyle Jachcinski, a staff member of the Squadron Ops Sim Center at the Aurora Airport in Sugar Grove, tries out one of the fighter pilot simulators.

      Kyle Jachcinski, a staff member of the Squadron Ops Sim Center at the Aurora Airport in Sugar Grove, tries out one of the fighter pilot simulators.

  • Greg Morris, owner of Squadron Ops Sim Center

      Greg Morris, owner of Squadron Ops Sim Center


The fighter-pilot mystique is as strong today as it was when the 1986 film, "Top Gun," became a hit.

Now, suburban enthusiasts can get a taste of that adrenaline pumping action at Squadron Ops Sim Center at the Aurora Airport in Sugar Grove.

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The business, which opened in December, uses technology drawn from actual military training principles to offer an intense taste of what it's like to fly fighter aircraft in combat, said Greg Morris, owner of Squadron Ops Sim Center as well as Gauntlet Warbirds, a company that offers training and rides in aerobatic and ex-military aircraft. He is a civilian pilot and flight instructor, and does contract flying for the military.

"We have seen an increase in interest in ex-military jets in the past five years as the population that grew up with the movie 'Top Gun' gets a little bit older and seeks, to a small bit, of being a fighter pilot," Morris said.

Squadron Ops is a way to help people experience a little bit of flying a jet, share a social simulation experience with friends and family, and hopefully foster a desire to fly, he said.

Since December, the business has had about 500 participants, including about 80 percent men who have flown via the simulators. The business allows children to fly them as well, and the recommended minimum age is 10, he said.

The price is $75 for one person, $150 for two people, and $240 for four people.

The sims have become so popular, he said, that he's planning to open another location in downtown Chicago by Christmas 2014. More locations could follow, he said.

Squadron Ops' simulations include present-day and World War II scenarios, in well known planes, including the P-51 Mustang, F4U Corsair, Bf-109, F-15, A-10, MiG-29 and Su-27. As you sit in one of the simulators, you will see three monitors linked to a IR head-tracking system, so as you move your head, the view in the simulator changes and allows a 360-degree view.

"You would have replicas of the stick and throttle from the A-10 and F-15 in each hand, and multifunction panels to control additional aircraft functions," he said. "Up to seven other people would be around you also flying in the same virtual environment. Your headsets are linked together so you can communicate and coordinate with each other."

The intensity of the simulators does not come from motion or any other typical thrill-ride experience, but from experiencing a taste of the tension of air combat and the challenges of maintaining situational awareness in a complex, dynamic environment, he said.

"It is great for parties and corporate events for this reason as teamwork is required, and we have scenarios designed that require groups to work together to achieve a task that none of them can accomplish alone, he said.

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