U.S. Air Forces Central   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

News > Afghan Air Force begins new flight capability: Nighttime missions
 
Photos
Previous ImageNext Image
Afghan Air Force begins new flight capability: Nighttime missions
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Smeaton, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron special mission aviator advisor, prepares ammunition before a Mi-17 flight January 5, 2013 at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan. In sub-freezing temperatures, two of the most seasoned pilots in the Afghan Air Force completed their first hour of night vision goggle training with advisors from NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan. This was the first flight towards qualifying instructor pilots capable of teaching NVG techniques to future AAF pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Anastasia Wasem)
Download HiRes
Afghan Air Force begins new flight capability: Nighttime missions

Posted 1/6/2014   Updated 1/6/2014 Email story   Print story

    


by Capt. Anastasia Wasem
NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan Public Affairs


1/6/2014 - KABUL, Afghanistan -- Donning night vision goggles on their helmets for the first time, Afghan Air Force pilots from the Kabul Air Wing conducted the first nighttime Mi-17 helicopter training mission Jan. 5 at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan.

In sub-freezing temperatures, two of the most seasoned pilots in the AAF completed their first hour of NVG training with advisors from NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan. This was the first flight towards qualifying instructor pilots capable of teaching NVG techniques to future AAF pilots.

"The biggest challenge with using NVGs is the loss of peripheral vision; the loss of being able to see the sides," said Capt. Nate Jones, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron pilot advisor. "All of a sudden it's like a TV screen right in front of you where your field of vision is more like a 40 degree circle. So your vision is very limited when you're flying under NVGs."

As the first flight, the training was kept simple. The two-ship formation, consisting of both AAF and U.S. aircrew members, began with basic hovering techniques over the airfield and then closed traffic patterns around the airport. Prior to the actual flight, the NATC-A advisors had conducted ground training comprised of goggle focus, maintenance of goggles, how to handle a malfunction and what to expect flying in this type of environment.

"He did really well for his first flight. Overall aircraft control was really good," stated Jones about the AAF pilot he was training. "These pilots have thousands of hours of flight time; the problem is that they don't have the NVG hours. They know how to fly, but under NVGs they just don't have the visual references to be able to determine everything they need to. It just takes time to get use to the differences."

It will take 100 hours of NVG training in order to qualify a pilot capable of teaching others, according to Jones. Techniques that are simple during daylight hours can become extremely difficult when dark. Something as simple as learning to look under the goggles as opposed to through the goggles when looking at lights is a skill that takes repetition and practice.

"This was our first flight with the NVGs and it was fantastic and we really enjoyed it," said one of the AAF pilots training on NVGs for the first time, despite more than 25 years of flight experience. "We have flown night missions in the past without the use of the goggles. The NVGs definitely make night flying easier."

The training plan developed by NATC-A advisors includes training for all members of the crew in order to understand each role in conducting these difficult flights.

"Once we get away from Kabul, on a dark night, it becomes very important if a pilot says 'I'm making a right turn' that the flight engineer looks to make sure that in the turn he's not descending," Maj. Francis Cooper, 438 AEAS pilot advisor, explained to the AAF crew members during the mission debrief. "If we're low, turn, start to descend and nobody notices, we can hit the ground very fast and very easy. One of the most important things for the engineer to do is make sure to check all the gauges and that the helicopter is staying level."

NATC-A advisors plan to conduct training five nights per week and eventually qualify multiple pilots and aircrew members to not only perform the missions but also train others on NVG use as well.



tabComments
No comments yet.  
Add a comment

 Inside AFCENT

ima cornerSearch


Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     USA.gov     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act