Our son is a student at US Army flight school at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. He and his classmates first got into a helicopter three months ago, after the Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) and Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training. Yesterday was family day. For the students it was just another day — academics in the morning and stick time in the afternoon. Familes were invited out to Toth staging field about a half hour from the fort where we were able to watch our son training on the Lakota helicopter. In April he will find out which platform he will be assigned (e.g., Blackhawk, Apache, or Chinook). The flight school cadre did a nice job of explaining what we were seeing and what to expect. We were even allowed to go up into the control tower and listen to the air traffic controllers talking to the pilots. I just happened to be in the tower when they were talking to Tom on the radio. It was probably routine for the students, but it was a very nice event for the families. He even had a 20 minute break to get out of the aircraft and talk to us. He was assigned helicopter 75K for the day.
Considering how little flight time these young officers have had, I think their skills were pretty impressive. In particular, most of them were doing a very good job at hovering, despite the windy conditions.
Tom’s class is part of an Army experiment to use virtual reality for part of flight training. We have been using flight simulators for many years, and that is still part of their training, but for the first couple of month, the VR training replaced some amount of simulator and actual stick time. I think this is an idea that will work whether or not it works, because someone has decided this is a good idea. Tom said the VR system, adapted from a commercial tool to train fixed-wing pilots, had a lot of artificialities that made transition into the cockpit difficult, but when they work out the kinks, this may turn out to be effective.
Tom demonstrates autorotation at Toth staging field near Ft. Rucker, AL.
Autorotation is an important skill for pilots. If the aircraft loses power, by manipulating the pitch of the blades, the pilot can maintain enough energy in the rotors that he can flair at the end and land safely. With a two engine aircraft, like the Lakota, you are not allowed to autorotate and land intentionally, so they came to a hover at the end.
I was having operator headspace and timing issues with the camera and phone yesterday (the iPhone kept defaulting to still photos, so sometimes I thought I was taking video but wasn’t). We still managed to get a few good videos.
A “running landing”
Towns outside Ft. Rucker roll up the streets pretty early, even on a Friday night, but I then took Tom and the others to a very nice Mexican restaurant with great food and amazing service.
It was a good day.