AETC tests new, innovative way of helicopter pilot training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Davis Donaldson
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Two 23rd Flying Training Squadron TH-1H Hueys stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and 14 personnel, traveled to Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, for training as part of the Undergraduate Helicopter Training Next (UHTN) program.

Columbus AFB answered a support request to provide physiology training for eight student pilots.

“This training was required to execute Air Education and Training Command's Undergraduate Helicopter Training Next program,” said Maj. Jarrod Huffman, 23rd Flying Training Squadron innovation flight commander and instructor pilot. “AETC is testing a way for the pilots assigned to helicopters to skip the fixed-wing portion of pilot trying and go straight to helicopter training. By having separate training for helicopter-student pilots and fixed-wing student pilots, pilot training will be more efficient.”

While completing the Initial Physiological Training course, led by Columbus AFB’s Aerospace and Operational Physiology flight, the student pilots learned about human factors, altitude threats, spatial disorientation, performance threats, egress, airfield flight equipment and vision, noise and aircraft vibration.

During their hands-on training, the student pilots completed a night-vision lab, a Bárány chair demonstration and a chamber flight for hypoxia familiarization.

All student pilots normally go through the first stages of training together, including academics and aerospace physiology, with helicopter student pilots selecting and transitioning to helicopters partway through the program.

“There are many different factors to do helicopter-only training,” Huffman said. “So much of the training, in addition to the flight training, occurs at a pilot training base. You’ve got the physiology and you’ve got a numerous amount of academics here, so now we’re trying to figure out how we’re going accommodate for that at the 23rd FTS.”

Each student pilot is assigned to various aircraft after a portion of training, with one of the possibilities of an aircraft being helicopters. By skipping training done at other pilot training bases, helicopter student pilots will get through the courses quicker and it in turn will save money.

Ultimately, Huffman believes that similar training such as IPTC can be accomplished at Ft. Rucker and will help pave a new way for AETC to conduct helicopter-only pilot training.

First Lt. William Ensurd, 14th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron aerospace physiology specialist, said the AOP team at Columbus AFB was happy to support the 23rd FTS during their visit.

“Columbus AFB AOP is proud to be a part of the Undergraduate Helicopter Training Next program,” Ensurd said. “AOP, as a whole, is constantly working to be at the leading edge of human factors and aerospace physiology training and this program is just part of that goal.”

He said because of the current environment, the training was difficult to come by, but he believes it was essential and done in the best way possible.

“During these complicated times, there are a lot of hurdles to work around to get individuals training in different locations,” Ensrud said. “Our team here at AOP, and the leadership teams here at Columbus AFB, worked very hard with the teams at Ft. Rucker to coordinate this training across two states, to ensure not only that the highest quality of training was performed, but also that it was done in the safest manner possible.”