Flight School From Scratch

Source: NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (ntm-a.com)

February 28, 2010

Combined Air Power Transition Force/538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron
Story by Lt. Col. James Piel, Commander, 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron

“Shohna Ba Shohna”-- here we stand as the Afghan expression says “Shoulder-to-Shoulder”, eight USAF C-27 Pilots and Loadmasters, and the 7 Afghan Pilots and Loadmasters, working together to build the future of the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps. On Jan. 26, 2010, these brave men surpassed a small but significant milestone for the C-27 program, the first 100 flight hours in Afghanistan.

Together with just three planes, long days, and a ton of vision, they have built an entire flight school from scratch in just 60 days. Now the C-27 Flying Training Unit, run by the 538th Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron, is in full swing, planning to graduate the first qualified Afghan Pilots and Loadmasters in Feb. 2010, with a steady stream of students and new aircraft to follow for the rest of the year.

The cross section of experience for the new Afghan pilots is wide and varied. The first student, a Lieutenant, graduated from USAF pilot training last Jun after spending over a year training in the T-6 trainer at Columbus AFB, MS. He was the first Afghan pilot to attend and graduate USAF pilot training in over 50 years. The following two pilots are both veteran fliers, one a former Mig-21 pilot and the other a former An-32 pilot who just returned from English language and basic instrument flight training in San Antonio, Texas.

All the Afghan loadmasters have extensive experience flying in the An-32 and are adapting to their new aircraft with great enthusiasm. The Afghan C-27 training consists of sixty hours of extensive academics and aircraft familiarization followed by 50 hours of flight training. For the pilots this includes both day and night flights in instrument and visual conditions, and normal and emergency procedure patterns and instrument approaches. The fast pace training program will result in their earning an initial qualification in the C-27. Follow on training will result in a special mission qualification in night vision goggles, tactical arrival and departures and air drop certification.

The Afghan student loadmasters fly together with the Afghan student pilots and will become qualified loadmasters in the C-27 with follow-on training that mirrors that of the pilots. The end result will be highly trained and skilled all-weather, day/night, mission qualified professional aviators ready to lead the way ahead for those who will follow in their footsteps. A heavy burden and responsibility, but one they have shown great courage to take hold of and charge forward. Together, “Shohna Ba Shohna”, the Afghan aircrews and US instructors are forging Afghanistan’s future air power to ensure the stability, peace and Enduring Freedom in a region plagued by war for decades…the future holds great promise. 

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