First US trained helicopter pilots return to Afghanistan

First US trained helicopter pilots return to Afghanistan

6-Dec-2010 Source: US Air Force

First Lieutenants Abdul Saboor Amin and Ahmad Fawad Haidari became the first two Afghan Air Force helicopter pilots to successfully complete language and pilot training in the United States, recently returning to begin Mi-17 conversion training at the Afghan Air Force Base in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The only two candidates out of 62 who were able to complete the entire U.S. pilot training course laid out for the AAF, Haidari and Amin have spent the past 16 months studying in San Antonio, Texas and Ft. Rucker, Ala.

The first stop on their American tour took them to San Antonio, Texas and the Defense Language Institute English Language, where the pilots were given an intensive six month language course. Since English is the international language of aviation, it was crucial for the two to be proficient. This importance was underscored by the fact that many of the 62 pilot candidates who were dropped from the program saw their dreams dashed during this phase due to a lack of English comprehension, said Amin and Haidari

Though not included in the list of candidates who were dropped from the program, the two did have their troubles, and the language barrier followed them to helicopter pilot training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, they said.

“We were not interested in going out because if we went out then we would be behind in our classes. We had to catch up with the American students, so we studied during the weekends,” said Haidari.

Though much free time was dedicated to studying, the two still found ways to interact with Americans and experience life outside of Afghanistan. They would talk to the people living on and around the base and share in the American culture, said Amin.

“We found Americans to be very friendly people. They were hospitable; some of our classmates would invite us to their homes for dinner,” said Amin.

Having little travel experience between the two of them, with Amin having never before left Afghanistan, the pilots said it was this type of foreign interaction that excited them about their trip to the States.

And while excited to live in a new and different place, the two were still focused on completing the course and becoming U.S. trained helicopter pilots, a goal that they accomplished thanks to hard work and the help of their Instructor Pilots who provided additional assistance to the two to counteract the problems that the language barrier imposed.

Now, the duo is back in Afghanistan after 16 months abroad and have brought with them a hope that their success will be an inspiration to other AAF Airmen working towards becoming pilots.

“When they see us, they, too, will feel like they can achieve their training (goals),” said Amin.

Next, Amin and Haidari will begin a Mi-17 conversion training course developed by 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Croatian and American advisors. The Mi-17 is the transport helicopter of the AAF which comprises the majority of the AAF helicopter fleet.

The syllabus for the pilots covers the Mi-17 aircraft systems, avionics, navigation, local area procedures and other subjects that are essential to getting a new pilot in the Mi-17 up to speed. The syllabus is a hybrid of the Croatian training syllabus and the U.S. style Aircrew Training Manual. The goal is for them to eventually progress to the rating of Instructor Pilot in the AAF, said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Jason Dickerson, a 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron Mi-17/Mi35 training officer.

The training will take approximately 6-8 months to progress Amin and Haidari to Aircraft Commander, then it will be up to the AAF to decide how the pilots should progress to Instructor Pilot, said Lt. Dickerson.

“This is a ground-breaking event for the 438th. These are the first two U.S. trained Afghan helicopter pilots, so we are excited to be able to have this opportunity to implement a new training style with our Afghan partners,” said Dickerson.

Not only excited, Dickerson feels that everyone involved in this process is prepared for the next steps in transforming Amin and Haidari into Mi-17 flying experts.
“These pilots are extremely eager. Likewise, we have been building and designing the syllabus, classes and events for them to undertake for almost two months in anticipation for their arrival,” he said

“We and our Afghan Air Force partners have exponentially high hopes for these two pilots. They both understand the situation they are in and they are ready to utilize every bit of this opportunity to become symbols of Afghanistan’s resolve for a strong stand-alone military. They are both excellent examples of the future of this nation and they exude that mentality in everything they do here.”

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