Posted 7 years 228 days ago ago by Admin
When it comes to training new helicopter pilots, the world’s military organizations are increasingly looking to third-party vendors for help. Choosing an outside organization, rather than doing training in-house, can help cash-strapped militaries exchange the cost of buying and maintaining their own training fleets for predictable fixed fees. Third-party contractors can also provide training in highly specialized areas that are just not cost-effective for militaries to provide for themselves.
Here is a sampling of third-party military helicopter pilot programs underway around the world.
When Trinidad and Tobago’s newly formed air guard first took delivery of four AW139s, there were few qualified pilots, mechanics, and crew on the island that could keep it adequately operational. AgustaWestland was hired to fill the gap. They received a 5-year contract to provide support, training, and logistics to the air guard and its recruits. Four years on, AgustaWestland and the air guard remain focused on enhancing pilot skills, as training flights account for nearly 30 hours of each air guard pilot’s monthly flight time.
AgustaWestland is now proposing to provide the U.S. military with helicopter flight training operations that combines new aircraft with training system and support. It is pioneering this concept in partnership with Bristow Academy (operator of the world’s largest commercial helicopter flight school) and Doss Aviation, which already manages the U.S. Air Force Initial Flight Training course. This proposal is based upon using the American-built, single-engine AW119Kx.
“The AW119Kx platform is a next-generation aircraft with a digital glass cockpit, superior power margins, and a durable airframe,” said Andrew Gappy, manager of the company’s business development efforts with the Navy. AgustaWestland expects the Navy to move forward with a formal request for proposal by early 2016.
To maintain confidentiality, Airbus Helicopters does not release the names of its military clients. However, Airbus Helicopters has 26 training centers and 22 full flight simulators located globally, including its Airbus Helicopters Training Services (AHTS) facility in Marignane, France, where military pilot and maintenance training is provided. AHTS has trained more than 50,000 military personnel and civilians over the last 50-plus years, and is certified to the EASA Part FCL (flight crew license) standard and to the AQAP 2110 standard for NATO military personnel. AHTS has 82 instructors with operational civilian and/or military experience, with average experience being 28 years.
“We provide access to high-fidelity training media and our training documentation is up-to-date,” said Laurence Petiard, Airbus Helicopters spokeswoman. “We are working more and more towards complex mission training for our military customers, instead of just simple flight simulators. For example, we can set up interconnections between simulators in order to create a multi-helicopter simulation with virtual targets for mission training. This is far more complicated and costly to do with real equipment,” she added. In addition, Airbus Helicopters is also working to provide mission training for complete crews in the next couple of years that will include the cockpit coupled with the cabin, the console, and using an augmented reality helmet for the winchman and/or gunman.
Bell Trains U.S. Military
For the past 40 years, Bell Helicopter has been providing supplementary ground and flight school training to military pilots in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines. In fact, Bell is only second to the U.S. military when it comes to training and producing helicopter pilots and maintainers. “To date, the Bell Training Academy has trained around 120,000 customers, with a throughput of approximately 1,900 pilots and 1,800 maintenance technicians annually. About 600 pilots a year are trained in Bell helicopters for the U.S. military, at a total of 60,000 flight hours,” said Scott Clifton, a manager for Bell Helicopter Global Military Business Development.
Bell’s military pilot training is based upon the proven Bell 206A platform, specifically the TH-57 that was also purchased by the Navy for its in-house program in the 1970s. “Our Marine and Navy students begin by training in the fixed-wing Beechcraft T-34, currently being replaced by the turboprop T-6B,” Clifton said. From there they graduate to the TH-57 for rotary-wing training. The Army has its students skip fixed-wing flying and train in the TH-67 (also a Bell 206 variant) and then they go into the OH-58.
Bell is currently proposing the Navy move to a services contract for all aspects of flight training. Clifton explained, “By using our services rather than their own in-house TH-57 fleet, the U.S. military would pay a flat fee rather than having to maintain training helicopters and flight instructors. The services contract would provide for the cost of new aircraft and their maintenance and support, as well as operating costs for the length of the contract. Bell would support the entire spectrum of Navy helicopter training.”
CAE Extensive Training
CAE is best known for its range of full-featured, six-axis flight simulators for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The company is also a major player in providing third-party military pilot training. In 1997, the United Kingdom awarded CAE a private finance initiative (PFI) contract to establish the Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility (MSHATF) at Royal Air Force Benson station. “This is one of the first programs of its kind where a military customer pays by the hour for turnkey training service,” said Phil Perey, CAE’s senior director of Global Military Business Development.
Under a contact that runs until 2037, CAE provides ground school and simulator training to the U.K. Joint Helicopter Command, which includes both Royal Air Force and Royal Navy helicopter crews. The MSHATF is equipped with six CAE-built full-mission simulators configured for CH-47 Chinook (three simulators), AW101 Merlin (two simulators) and Puma helicopters (one simulator). The MSHATF has also provided third-party flight training to pilots from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Danish Air Force, and Portuguese Air Force.
In 2003, CAE and AgustaWestland formed a joint venture company, Rotorsim, to provide simulator training for a range of AW helicopters, including the military variant of the AW109 light utility helicopter and the NH90 military helicopter, as well as the AW139, AW169, and AW189 airframes. Based in Sesto Calende, Italy, the Rotorsim center includes several CAE full-flight simulators equipped with CAE’s roll-on/roll-off cockpit design that allows various cockpits to be rolled in and out of a full-flight simulator “mothership.”
“The capital investment needs for a high-end, full-mission helicopter training center can be significant,” said Perey. “CAE provides the necessary capital investment in exchange for a minimum commitment to train for a number of years.”
HNZ Topflight Teaches Mountain Flying
Flying a military helicopter in mountainous areas can be an extremely tricky business, especially if the flying conditions are at the edge of the helicopter’s performance envelope. Since 1951, HNZ Topflight (previously known as the Canadian Helicopters School of Advanced Flight Training) of Penticton, British Colombia, has been teaching military, police, commercial, and private helicopter pilots how to make their way around mountains safely by learning how to detect and ride the updrafts around peaks and ridges.
“We started after World War II, helping Royal Canadian Air Force pilots fly their underpowered Bell 47s around the mountains,” said Tim Simmons, HNZ Topflight’s chief flying instructor. “The secret is to learn how to find the upflowing air while you are aloft, so that you can take advantage of this lift to reduce your power needs while providing the aircraft with more stable flight.”
Today, HNZ Topflight’s military helicopter students come from Canada, the U.S. Army and Navy, and the European militaries of Denmark, Germany, and Norway, among others. The company’s expertise in teaching mountain flying is something that general purpose military training organizations, with their need to be all things to all people, cannot provide. Simmons said, “We just focus on this type of highly specialized flight training, and that’s it. It's what we do best.”
MD Helicopters (MDHI) has been providing transition training and recurring pilot/maintenance training for military customers for more than 50 years. “The best way to learn to fly an MD product is in an MD product. There are no better instructors than our MDHI pilots and maintenance engineers,” said Nick Nenadovic, MDHI’s vice president of aftermarket and customer support.
For military pilots, MDHI’s transition flight training is comprised of a five-day class that provides 16 hours of ground school, and up to five hours of flight training. The course familiarizes appropriately rated helicopter pilots with MD500, MD520N, MD530, MD600, and MD Explorer helicopter systems and operation. “The ground school segment covers publications, aircraft systems, operational procedures, and preflight inspection procedures. Four to five hours of flight time includes practice of normal flight and selected emergency procedures,” said Nenadovic.
For pilots who are familiar with MD aircraft or who have already completed transition flight training but need to stay current, MDHI provides comprehensive recurrent training.
At present, MDHI is providing military flight/maintenance training for the U.S. Army and partner military organizations. “We also support the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and have trained military pilots from the U.S. Air Force, Jordanian air force, Mexican navy, Chilean army, Kenyan army, Argentine air force and Kurdistan government,” said Nenadovic. “Paramilitary groups including the Columbian national police, Beijing police, Belgium police, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have also used our flight and maintenance training services,” he said.