First US trained Afghan pilots begin Mi-17 qualification course

First US trained Afghan pilots begin Mi-17 qualification course

27-Jan-2011 Source: NTM-A

The first two Afghan Air Force helicopter pilots to complete basic pilot training in the U.S. recently began the “Initial Mi-17 Qualification Course” meant to convert them into Mi-17 helicopter pilots at the Afghan Air Force Base in Kabul.

A hybrid of Croatian and U.S. helicopter training syllabi, the course is a six-month evolution that will qualify the pilots, 1st LTs Abdul Saboor Amin and Ahmad Fawad Haidari, as helicopter aircraft commanders in the Mi-17 and authorize them to fly as such in the Afghan Air Force, said U.S. Navy Lt. Jason Dickerson of Richmond, Va., the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan/438th Air Expeditionary Advisory squadron training & evaluations officer.

“Since they have been trained and winged via a U.S. training program, the expectations from them as far as skill-level and overall professionalism is very high,” said Dickerson, who is an H-60 Seahawk weapons and tactics Instructor at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center’s Rotary Wing Weapons School currently on a Navy Individual Augmentee 12-month tour.

Both, Croatian and U.S training pipelines are extremely challenging and by design expect a very high amount of work and professionalism to ensure a quality product. As such, these two pilots are being held to a much higher standard, said Dickerson.

Such an attention to detail is evident during a flight brief for a training mission that Lieutenants Amin and Haidari flew with their instructor pilot Croatian Air Force Capt. Zoran Maranovic, an advisor with the 438th AEAS.

Afghan Air Force 1st LTs Ahmad Fawad Haidari and Abdul Saboor Amin pose for a photgraph infront of the Mi-17 helicopter they will use during a training mission focusing on traffic patterns at the Afghan Air Force Base in Kabul, Afghanistan Jan. 24.

Perusing through the pre-flight weather, fuel, cargo and mission information, Maranovic quizzed the Afghan pilots’ understanding of the Mi-17 and the day’s mission—a trip to Blackwater, a training site outside of Kabul, to practice traffic patterns.

“You put a pilot into traffic patterns you will learn everything you need to know about the pilot,” said Maranovic.

“Traffic patterns involve many elements of piloting: take-off, flying, ascent, descent, hovering and final approach. It is a way of building consistency in skills and ability. This exercise gives them experience regarding how the aircraft operates, and is the best exercise for forming the foundation of pilot training,” he said.

Successfully answering Maranovic’s questions, Amin, Haidari and their IP made their way to the aircraft, excited to begin the training evolution which will bring their total flight time to around nine hours so far in the Mi-17.

“They are getting better and better,” said Maranovic after the exercise. “They are exactly where they should be.”

Switching focus from the training mission to the future of the pilots and the AAF, Maranovic said, “They are good pilots and we will see a big difference in the Afghan Air Force because of them. If NATC-A continues to advise and instruct the pilots, we will not only lift the skill found in the Afghan Air Force, but we will also lift their spirits. Attitudes also need advising.”

And just as the IP was impressed, so were the pilots themselves.

“This was the first time that I did everything well. Procedure was good, flying was good,” said Haidari before commenting that there was still room for improvement.

Though happy with the outcome of the exercise, the pilots understand the importance of continuing their focus and dedication to the course for their benefit, and the benefit of the AAF.

“We hope to finish this training and learn from the IPs so we can be the ones training future AAF pilots,” said Amin.

“We are trying to bring a change in professionalism and safety to the pilot corps,” he continued.

It is this devotion to duty and Afghanistan that raises hope and admiration in NATC-A advisors and Airmen throughout the AAF.

“Lieutenants Abdul and Ahmad continue to impress all of the coalition advisors as well as their fellow Afghans. They are fitting in well with the existing Squadron and are already very well respected among many of the current Afghan military,” said Dickerson.

“In the future, as Lts Ahmad and Abdul progress in experience and Rank within the AAF, it will be a great honor to be able to look back on my experience here and say that I had a hand in training them and I’m honored to be able to know them and work with them as fellow Rotary Wing aviators,” he said.

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