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 it happening.
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 W.Va. 2.
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 said.