The pilots start their preflight checks on the aircraft, like they have done hundreds of times before, but this time it was different. Almost everything was the same, until it came time for the inside checks. Inside of the rotary wing aircraft looks like something out of the future, with big digital screens and a slue of buttons and switches inside the cockpit where analog systems used to be.
The age of the analog is fading away, making way for the digital age. This is the case for the many of the Army’s rotary wing aircraft.
Recently the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, received new UH-60M and HH-60M MEDEVAC model Black Hawks and began training pilots and maintenance pilots to operate and manage the upgraded systems.
Before the 25th CAB pilots can even conduct a preflight check on the new UH-60M Black Hawks, they have to be certified by Science and Engineering Services (SES) who conduct the nearly four week training process.
“The first portion of the certification is the academics portion, where we teach the pilots the differences of the new aircraft, and the aviation electronic systems and how to use the flight planning software,” said Eric Turner, academics instructor for SES. “This part of the training is where the students get their first hands on experience of the new equipment with the use of the Cockpit Academic Procedural Tool (CAPT). This is a small version of the new cockpit that allows us to teach how the new systems work, and the new layout of the cockpit,” said Turner.
25th CAB Pilots said they immediately recognized some of the advantages the new M model systems enabled for them.
“The new systems allow for a greater detail when planning our routes before we even get to the aircraft, allowing the pilots to ensure greater safety and more efficiency,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven Silva, pilot in command, B Co., 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th CAB, 25th Inf. Div.
Some of the new capabilities of the Black Hawks are an improved crashworthy external fuel system, improved durability gearbox with rotor brake, wider and more efficient chord rotor blades, an additional battery, two flight control computers, four multi-function digital displays, digital maps with live tracking, dual digital flight controls, improved turbine engine and a greater viewing area within the cockpit.
“I am really impressed with the aircraft’s capabilities,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2, Rafael Solis, maintenance test pilot, B Co., 2-25th AVN, 25th CAB, 25th Inf. Div. “To be able to make some adjustments with a few switches and knobs, and the aircraft will fly in the direction, altitude and speed that you set with out having to manually move the aircraft is great.”
The second phase of the training is based on the Transportable Black Hawk Operations Simulator (TBOS) which is a mock setup of the UH-60M Black Hawk.
This is where pilots spend a few hours each day conducting preflight checks and flying missions while an instructor ensures they are fully trained on the new cockpit before moving the pilot onto the final phase of the course, flying the new Black Hawks, according to Nick Pianalto, UH-60M instructor for SES.
“The best part is how realistic the training is compared to the actual aircraft,” said Pianalto. The simulator acts and feels just like the Black Hawk, and makes it easy for pilots to transition to flying.”
During the final phase the pilots receive more than 17 flight hours with an instructor to ensure they learn basic flight operations and maneuvers before achieving certification on the new Black Hawks.
The new improvements allow a greater scope of missions, while using fewer resources to conduct missions and improving the safety of the Army’s pilots and crew.
UH-60: panel (above) to be compared to the UH-60M panel (below)