Virtual Reality Flight Training: A New Frontier in Air Pilot Expertise

January 11, 2024

Commercial pilots and military airmen will soon have better options when it comes to flight training. As our technology frontier changes, there is renewed intent on improving flight operations and training within our airspace and ground control. And with recent incidents like that seen with Alaska and Delta Airlines, there is a call for serious improvements in the field of aviation to ensure overall safety for pilots, passengers, and those on the ground. 

By 2028, the global aircraft simulation market is projected to reach USD 8,952.96 million, and “technological advancements in simulators are primary drivers for the aircraft simulation market.” New trends in pilot training like Project Fusion are creating more opportunities for better training that could improve operations and meet the growing demands of this industry.

What is Virtual Reality and Project Fusion?

Virtual reality (VR) is the use of a digitized platform to simulate an environment or situation for training or entertainment purposes. Many have seen VR used within the video gaming industry. In essence, VR training is much like a video game where the user interacts with a program to a cause-and-effect outcome. In fact, there are flight simulator games currently on the market that allow the player to experience flying a plane.

Project Fusion, also known as the "Pilot Instructor Training Next" program for the U.S. Air Force, is similar to this gaming technology but on a professional level, focusing heavily on industry standards and the human intuition factor of machine learning. With “new insights into how the human brain learns and processes information, there needed to be an evolution in how we tackle these tasks,” states an article by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS). This emphasizes the importance of understanding how humans think and react during flight scenarios – something that can be better studied within the controlled environment of VR flight training. 

Project Fusion uses an integration of virtual simulation equipment and software along with 360-degree video headsets to create an immersive, realistic experience for Air Force pilot trainees. Students can immediately engage in the simulation and react as if they were in a real-life flight without the same safety concerns. This training style has been adopted by the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina and soon, many other bases will likely join this evolving method of pilot training.

Can AI help train pilots?

In tandem with VR, AI can also help train pilots for flight. Using the information gained from human interaction with the software, AI can predict and analyze data and generate improvements in the program to the benefit of the trainee. AI can also help predict weather conditions, detect equipment malfunctions, track pilot biometrics, offer course corrections, improve the landscape graphics, and more. As the trainee learns, so does the software, offering an interactive and informative relationship between man and machine. 

Why is flight simulation important?

VR is used in many fields, from healthcare to military, banking to customer service. Typically, the reasoning behind integrating VR into pilot training is to provide a learning platform in which to explore scenarios prior to entering the field. This gives students and trainees the ability to make mistakes and learn from them without the implicit safety concerns, consequences, or fears associated with real-life flight situations. Also, it provides more accessibility for those stationed all over the world. It is estimated that the U.S. spends about $14 billion on synthetic or virtual training every year within the military, further emphasizing its importance within the training arena.

Safety and Preparedness 

VR can help soldiers and pilots before they ever approach a battlefield. VR replicates combat scenarios and flight situations to improve understanding of emergency responses, adaptability in different situations and environments, practice maneuvering, and more. Trainees can prepare for real-life situations that are dangerous, thus preventing safety issues and equipment losses.


The Air Force can also use VR software to provide in-depth training to airmen who would normally have to travel far from their duty stations to complete their coursework, providing a more accessible means to a successful education. In a flight program for new professionals, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires 1,500 hours of flight training to become a pilot, which typically takes about 2 years. This training can be greatly improved through VR and AI, either during simulated flight or while in the air, making piloting possible for students all over the world.

New Virtual Reality Flight Simulator Headed for Capitol Tech

Capitol Technology University specializes in aviation and astronautical sciences, as well as cybersecurity, engineering, computer science, and AI. Our B.S. in Aviation Professional Pilot program provides students with a clear path to becoming a pilot by learning from our certified faculty and working through our approved flight curriculum. Additionally, a new VR Flight Simulator will be joining our extensive list of resources for new pilots, with an expected installation date of Fall 2024. Contact us to find out how Capitol Tech can help your career take flight!