AAF achieves first fixed-wing UPT flights in 30 years

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Afghan maintenance crews marshaled a team of three U.S. instructors paired with three Afghan students as they took to the morning skies in three separate Cessna 182 aircraft, marking the first undergraduate pilot training sorties in over 30 years in Afghanistan, March 24, 2012

Advisors with the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group are teaming with civilian instructor pilots from Lockheed Martin's sub-contractor i3 to conduct this first UPT course to produce Afghan pilots for its air force.

The flights were conducted without having to send pilots to foreign training programs outside the country.

"This is the first time that the UPTs have been held in Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. James Bands, 444th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander. "The main goal here is to transition all of the training to the Afghans, so these first students are key to the success of a fully independent Afghan air force ."

Prior to starting UPT, the students were enrolled in language training in which they are required to achieve an English language competency score of 80 or above on a scale of 100 points, before being allowed to move on the initial flight screening.

The three AAF student pilots are among the first seven to graduate from the IFS here, where they were evaluated on their potential to successfully complete pilot training.

"The students were the first generation of pilots to be properly trained and graduate IFS," said Bands. "We used the IFS and UPT modeled after the programs used in the States to instruct and develop new pilots for the AAF."

The students will spend the next six months flying in the Cessna 183 before transitioning to the Cessna 208 Grand Caravan. Afghan air force personnel will spend a total of about 10 months in upgrade training to graduate from the fixed wing UPT program.

Maj. David McManaway, 444th AEAS assistant director of operations and instructor pilot, said that he was really pleased with the students' progress.

"I was very impressed with the students' preparation and professionalism. Right off the bat, I could easily see the effort these students put into their studying," said McManaway. "They knew their stuff, which means they possess the motivation required to become Afghanistan's newest pilots."

The students, however, faced many challenges before they ever left the ground which may have hindered their dreams of becoming pilots.

"The students endured months of English training, which is not an easy process, to get to the level they are today. So grooming the pilot candidates so they're eligible to start UPT is the hardest thing they have done so far," said McManaway.

In addition to their ELC scores, the students were evaluated on various maneuvers both in and out of the air to include mission briefs, pre-flight checks and the actual flying of the aircraft. All training sessions and flights are documented and used to track a student's progress throughout the UPT program.

"We use paper-based training records to document the student's progression over time," said Bands. "This will help us determine which students will continue flying these aircraft and which ones will return to instruct other AAF pilot candidates in one of the two aircraft."

Afghan air force Lt. Wahlid Noori said that he appreciated everything that he has learned and was thrilled with today's flight.

"It was perfect. To perform the duties we've been practicing every day for months is very rewarding and being able to fly makes the long hours of studying worthwhile," said Noori.

The students' experiences from this day forward will qualify them for their future roles, commented advisors.

"These students are consummate professionals, extremely intelligent and highly motivated; the perfect fit for UPT. These students will not only become instrument-rated pilots but they will also become the future leaders of Afghanistan," said McManaway.