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Capt. Patrick Britton, 359th Training Squadron Detachment 1 commander, right, uses a spray gun and HTC Virtual Reality goggles to apply paint to a virtual aircraft part in a 3D VR trainer Dec. 12, 2018, at the unit's schoolhouse on Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. 

HUNTINGTON — The soon-to-launch Aviation Maintenance Technology program operated jointly by Marshall University and Mountwest Community & Technical College in Huntington will be the first Part 147 school in the United States to use a virtual reality system to meet FAA training requirements for aviation paint and coating labs.

In early July, the program received the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration to deploy the new system that simulates an aviation paint shop environment and allows instructors greater ability to simulate diverse painting scenarios and precisely measure students’ abilities.

As with all instructional aides and equipment for aviation training, the virtual 3D paint system will be evaluated during the FAA design performance phase of Marshall’s certification to ensure it meets federal requirements.

The 3D system provides a platform for instructors to measure student performance, including such metrics as millimeters of paint thickness, cost of materials used, gun distance, overspray and angle in relation to the parts being painted.

Manufactured by VirtualPaint Products of Cedar Falls, Iowa, it is the same training system used by the U.S. Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command at facilities including Hill Air Force Base in Utah as well as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aviation Technical Training Center in North Carolina.

“This innovative, virtual-reality system will save our program considerable money by eliminating the need for consumables such as paint and personal protective gear while reducing setup and cleanup time,” said Jim Smith, interim director of the Marshall/Mountwest Aviation Maintenance Technology program, in a news release.

Located at Huntington Tri-State Airport, the AMT program’s inaugural class is scheduled to begin in January 2022.

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