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33rd FW hosts 19th AF Aircrew Human Performance Summit

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Abigail Duell
  • 33rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 33rd Fighter Wing hosted the second inaugural Aircrew Human Performance Summit in Fort Walton Beach, FL, April 29 - May 3, 2024. The conference brought together subject matter experts within the aircrew performance community in an effort to re-optimize for great power competition. 

Aircrew performance teams are composed of aerospace physical therapists, strength and conditioning coaches, performance dietetics, cognitive performance specialists and a multitude of other SMEs who are there to meet the needs of pilot athletes.  

“We want to have the capabilities to test and train aircrew attributes, which are specific items that we can evaluate over the aircrew lifecycle to see if a pilot's performance is tracking upwards,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Stephanie “Hugo” Chayrez, the 33rd FW Aircrew Performance Team program director. “If we see a general decline in their performance metrics then it highlights the need for our SMEs to engage, get them back on that trajectory and make sure they have everything available to them to maximize their performance in the cockpit.” 

In tandem with their simulated events and flying, F-35A Lightning II student pilots receive targeted curriculum in the APC during their training. 

“We do an eight-week program to prepare them for flying operations,” said Chayrez. “It’s similar to an off-season for professional athletics. “During the off-season we can load them cognitively and physically to a higher level. Various curricula are executed throughout their training so that we can better meet their demands and help them perform to their peak levels alongside their instructor pilots.” 

While the APC is especially important for student pilots, it proves to be just as essential for pilots who are further along in their careers.  

“A lot of people look at the APC and all they see is a gym, but it is so much more than that,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Dave Skalicky, 33rd FW commander. “I’m 25 years into flying high performance aircraft with almost 3,000 hours between the F-15, the F-22 and the F-35. Although that takes an extreme physical toll, the APC provides me with all of the resources I need in a single location.” 

Ultimately, APCs work to improve the quality of pilot production and increase retention rates.  

“War will always be a human endeavor," said Skalicky. “Even as we bring on the AI and the collaborative combat aircraft, it’s still going to be that human performing at their absolute peak level that’s going to make the difference. Technology can be replicated, but what you can't replicate are the humans behind that technology and how they use it. At the end of the day, increasing human performance gives us an edge over our adversaries.” 

The summit concluded with an immersion tour of the APC and the 60th Fighter Squadron at the 33rd FW.  

“We make a special effort to show our visitors the various components of the APC (i.e. recovery cove, cognitive corner, the fueling station, etc.) and explain how each area was designed to help the airman fuel, train, fly and recover,” said Christopher Parrott, 19th AF Formal Training Unit Project Manager. “This helps us to demonstrate the thought that went into creating the APC, and our goal of helping our aircrew athletes to max perform their operations.” 

The 33rd Fighter Wing’s aircrew performance team continues to improve the human weapon system and prepare pilots for a high-intensity combat environment with today’s greater power competition.