El Toro Flight Simulator Unit Recreates Earth, Sky for Pilots

A $27.2-million Flight Simulator Facility that allows realistic recreations of the earth, sky and “hostile aircraft” for training pilots for the Navy and Marine Corps has been completed at the U. S. Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro.

Designed for the new F/A 18 Hornet aircraft by the Lane Architectural Group of Woodland Hills, the new 24,000-square-foot building contains a “weapons tactics trainer"--a flight simulator developed by Hughes Aircraft Co. that includes two life-size F/A 18 Hornet cockpits in the centers of 40-foot-diameter spheres.

The spheres, composed of thin aluminum and supported by external structural work, are housed in a 60-by-120-foot room beneath a 50-foot-high ceiling, according to Howard R. Lane of the architectural firm. The facility is expected to become fully operational this fall.

With the high costs of high performance aircraft and fuel, the aviation industry, both military and commercial, relies more on high-technology-based flight simulators that use computers to provide images for the pilot, operate the instrument panel, give control feedback and create “seat-of-the pants” sensations that take the simulator to an extremely high level of realism.


Total cost of the project was $3.2 million for the shell building and $24 million for the flight simulators.

In addition to Hughes Aircraft, the Lane firm worked with the Western Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command in San Bruno, Calif., the design and construction agent for the Navy; the Naval Training Equipment Center in Orlando, Fla.; the Navy Air Systems Command and Marine Corps Air Station fight training personnel in El Toro.

Consultants included John A. Martin & Associates, Los Angeles, structural engineer; Hellman & Lober Inc., Los Angeles, mechanical engineer; Pascoe Engineering Inc., Irvine, electrical engineer and Lawrance R. Moss, AILA & Associates, Glendale, landscape architect. Maecon Inc., Irvine, was the general contractor.