US trained AAF pilots advance in Mi-17 course, designated co-pilots

US trained AAF pilots advance in Mi-17 course, designated co-pilots

13-Apr-2011 Source: NATO Training Mission

The first two Afghan air force helicopter pilots to complete basic aviator training in the U.S. recently became qualified as co-pilots in the Mi-17 helicopter, the focal point of the AAF’s rotary-wing force. The qualification marks a major milestone for the duo now nearing the half-way point in their Mi-17 training.

In order to receive the co-pilot designation, AAF 1st Lts. Abdul Saboor Amin and Ahmad Fawad Haidari needed to pass a check-ride demonstrating their control and understanding of the aircraft. Flying over and around Kabul, the pair took turns performing take offs, landings, approaches, emergency procedures and other transition maneuvers meant to test their proficiency.

Flying the aircraft is only a piece of the overall responsibilities of a pilot, so Amin and Haidari also conducted the planning, briefs and pre-flight checks the mission required. The tandems general command of military aviation impressed U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mace Kant, a NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan Mi-17 pilot advisor and the instructor pilot on the check-ride.

“They both did very well,” said Kant. “Knowledge is solid and you can tell they have been studying hard. I would give them the highest marks I can hand out,” he said. “The first check-ride is always the hardest because you learn the aircraft the most, and it encompasses the most studying and learning, but they did very well.”

“The nicest thing, though, is that their English skills are good and they understand tower calls,” he added.

Spending 16 months in the U.S. for language and pilot training, Amin and Haidari were immersed in English, the international standard language of aviation, and it is this advantage that Kant believes brings the pilots into the world-community of professional aviation.

Though a success, the check-ride was not without mistakes for both pilots.
“The flight was OK,” said Haidari. “We have flown better before and we were kind of nervous, excited and eventually disappointed. But of course we are happy to have passed.”

“Right now, though, we know that if our squadron gave us an operational mission we would be able to go out and accomplish it,” said Amin.

A contrast to Kant’s impression of the flight as an instructor pilot, Haidari’s evaluation is actually what Kant believes will lead them to success in the AAF.

“The best thing about these guys is their attitudes. They come prepared, ask questions and strive to be the best,” he said. “They strive to do their best and then accept their failings, working harder the next time to improve.”

This attitude is part of the “Western mind-set” that the pilots are buying into, believes Kant.

Officially finished with their initial instruction, the pilots move onto instrument flying and eventually formation and night training.

With their current projection and ever-expanding skill-sets, Kant sees Amin and Haidari as not only being able to graduate the entire Mi-17 course and become aircraft commanders, but as the future of the AAF, a notion that the two hold in high regard.

“Day by day we are becoming better pilots. We can feel the change in skill and we know this will continue,” said Amin.

“It is important for us to succeed because it is important for the Afghan people and government,” said Haidari. “Afghanistan needs more pilots, and we can be an example used to motivate and encourage others to follow their goals.”

Now all that Amin and Haidari need to achieve their goals is time.

“The only way to become a 1,000 hour pilot is to fly for 1,000 hours. Experience just takes time, and wisdom follows foot,” said Kant.

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