Machine Simulating River Experience Unveiled
Huntington WV Herald-Dispatch
29 December 2013
By Lacie Pierson
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- A large portion of West Virginia's economy
passes by Huntington each day, and many residents may not even see
The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates the state's waterways
and ports account for $1.6 billion of the state's economy as well
as 9,980 of its jobs, which made the need for a simulator at the
waterways academy all the more necessary, said Capt. John
Whiteley, director of the Inland Waterways Academy at Mountwest
Community and Technical College.
"In Huntington, like many other cities on a river, people don't
realize there's a river out there," he said. "When they built the
floodwalls in these cities, you couldn't see the rivers anymore.
They don't realize how much traffic travels on the river and how
important it is to our economy."
The Full Mission Wheelhouse Simulator was unveiled Dec. 17 to the
legislators, media and the public during an event at the waterways
academy, which shares space with the Tri-State Fire Academy along
The simulator includes seven visual channels to give pilots and
captains-in-training a 180-degree view forward from the wheelhouse
and a channel that allows them to see the view behind them. The
channels simulate the river settings at busy inland ports
including Cincinnati, New Orleans and the Port of Huntington
Tri-State, which is the largest inland port in the United States,
Whiteley also has the ability to simulate water and weather
conditions as well as scenarios with other water bound traffic to
test the capabilities of the nearly 500 students that come through
the program each year.
"The biggest thing is safety. We use a simulator to train people
safely," he said. "If you take a brand new guy going through
Cincinnati, Cincinnati has five bridges you have to go through and
they're not lined up, so you have to learn how to wiggle your way
through the bridges. If you miss, you knock down the bridge. With
this, if you hit the bridge, it says, `OK. Let's start again,' and
there's no damage."
Once students have completed training there, Whiteley said they
are on track to start careers that could put them in the
six-figure salary range within eight to 10 years.
Before the simulator was built at the waterways academy, the
nearest wheelhouse simulators to Huntington were in Paducah, Ky.,
and Virginia Beach, Va.
Funding for the simulator came through a grant partnership with
the Marshall University Research Corporation and the Rahall
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., recited the statistics that
illustrated the economic impact of the state's waterways, and he
pointed to the motto of the American Waterway Operators
Association, "Barges are Beautiful."
"I went to Congress believing transportation builds jobs," Rahall
said. "That's the motto of the Rahall Transportation Institute. In
my book that's the real beauty."