Training The Military Pilot

Military Training Competency

Charlie Marais is a retired SA Airforce Col, with 30 years of military management, training, and combat experience, currently active at Westline Aviation flight school doing basic and advanced training, military and civilian, aircraft, and a helicopter. Charlie is an ex-military helicopter and fixed-wing pilot with extensive experience in operational training, planning, and execution. Having spent 36 months deployed in the operational area flying helicopter troopers and helicopter gunships, honed his skills as a most ideal military and para-military mind.

He is Senior Command and Staff qualified, with tactical planning and execution honed to settle the military mind. He was involved in many planning and operational sorties. Charlie specialised in advanced flight training as officer commanding of 87 Helicopter Flight Training School, preparing young pilots as combat-ready operators. His knowledge and skills as night vision (NVG) specialist, with operational-tactical planning combined to develop young military specialists with the knowledge and skills to enter the operational arena.

Understanding tactical analyses and planning, he was involved in many missions and selected to be the first officer commanding of the Rooivalk Attack helicopter squadron, doing extensive development in normal flight as well as operational deployment and application of this formidable airborne tank. His experience included a rescue mission to Antarctica, flying a Puma helicopter from the helideck on the ship Agulhas. This mission was during the early winter months and the sea state was such that the helicopters and equipment onboard, shifted during a storm, which needed in time corrective actions to save, not just the equipment, but the entire mission. This mission marked him as a team player, with military discipline and the will to succeed under stressful and adverse conditions. He was the SAAF helicopter display pilot for a few years and amongst other achievements, also lead the 16-ship Harvard formation 21 times. He was also part of the Harvard formation aerobatic team and having finished many displays as the number 2, then took the lead of the formation for the following 18 displays. In addition, he was appointed on 38 civilian air shows as the Air-boss, during which no accidents or serious incidents were encountered.

As a qualified Aircraft Accident Investigator, trained by the University of Southern California, he completed many accident investigations and became the trainer of accident investigator candidates.

His expertise has a direct influence on advanced training capabilities especially in preparing military orientated candidates.

Type of training required

Military and para-military entities need to make an early decision on what exactly the required outcome of the training must be.

If the training is civilian orientated and results in a civilian license acquired, such an aviator will not understand how military flying differs from civilian flying in application, planning, and execution requirements.

Should the pilot do military orientated training, it would not be possible to adhere to civilian standards regarding solo hours and captain hours specified for civilian licenses.

Military orientated training includes the walk and talk of mission planning, taking into consideration enemy positions, tactics, capabilities, and so on. A substantial amount of the training will be military skills orientated, developing flying skills, but in a military application fashion. This training will then be ample for military wings standard.

Should the pilot be required to have civilian training as well, due to VIP application, the course can be extended to include the civilian examinations and solo hours required.

Military and para-military institutions must, therefore, have their specific requirements in mind when selecting the course applied to the individual.

Developing the Military Mind

To train a pilot to become mission ready, does not need Military hardware, but a military mind to teach concepts and skills which will make conversions to military aircraft or helicopters more cost-effective. The following aspects need to be addressed:

  1. Military Discipline. Military discipline must be instilled and maintained throughout the training cycle. Only military or ex-military personnel understand the effect of disciplined behavior during a mission.
  2. Military Mind. The continuance of an already developed military mind needs to be further developed and nurtured to hone military esprit decor. The behavior of an officer can only be evaluated by another officer, with experience and stature.
  3. Tactical Planning. Battle filed scenarios are used to force planning to be more based on intel, than on the straight, quick, and timesaving. Flying must, therefore, be mission orientated to develop the tactical mind.
  4. Skills Environment. Although the training is not done with military aircraft, the skills-set required to do military-type flying must be developed from day one. Flying straight and level between points of departure and arrival is basics, military flight application is advanced in almost all aspects.

Course content

  1. Low-Level Flight. In this phase, the candidate will be taught the skills to operate and maneuver at a low level, down to 50 feet, lower when masking in helicopters is required.
  2. Turbine Power Management. Power management in a turbine helicopter has proven to be one of the main reasons for helicopter accidents. Management of turbine engines in helicopters is a skill and a must for advanced flying.
  3. Tactical Navigation. During this navigation phase, the planning and execution of tactical route planning at levels 200 feet and lower, coupled with the ability to rendezvous with other helicopters or aircraft. Assessing of the tactical situation one faces, dictates the routes and profiles to be flown.
  4. Surveillance Flight. Low level one, pass surveillance, is a skill required and is taught with practical flights after careful lecturing of the methods used to be super situationally aware when bringing home intel.
  5. Flight under Fire. All military and semi-military (police) aviators must be able to understand and assess a hot situation, making use of flight profiles and maneuvering skills to not only survive live firing but also to manage the ground situation during such occurrences.
  6. Command and Control. To enter an operational, hostile area, takes good planning and well-rehearsed flight skills, tactical thinking, and the ability to think on one’s “wings”. The principals involved is paramount to managing aerial hostile situations.
  7. Formation Flying. Normal Formation Flying is a must for any military or para-military pilot, as such skills are part of the traditions during flybys and parades. To learn the basics of Formation Flying is a safety must and forms the baseline for Battle Formation.
  8. Battle Formation. Battle Formation is a very specialised field of ingress and egress from tactical situations. The ability to think and fly at low level in Tactical Formation is something to be taught, and not to discover during hostile situations.
  9. Vehicle Escort. How to accompany a vehicle, or to find and follow a vehicle, in hostile and non-hostile situations, is an exposure required by all pilots that may need to perform escort duties from an aerial platform.
  10. Route Flying. Route flying is specialised during normal situations but becomes a bit more tedious in possible hostile environments, where anti-air exists.
  11. Coastal Operations. Flying at the coast and flying in the higher areas and mountains, are separate environments that require different thought and application.
  12. Mountain Flying. Mountain flying with helicopters require approach and landing at high altitude. The skills to fly in these treacherous environments are something that must be grounded by knowledge and then experienced first-hand to be able to perform duties required in such areas.
  13. Cargo Sling Basic Course. The basic rules for cargo sling operations are easy enough, but the flying skills are far from easy. This capability also teaches the candidate to be far better in control of the helicopter and to be a pre-requisite for any tight area work, such as on ships and helideck operations
  14. NVG Basic Operations. Night Vision equipment has turned into basic equipment needed for operational usage, military, medical as well as for crime prevention operations. With the field of view harshly impaired, the flight ability requirements retained requires great teaching, with strict basic and advanced rules to follow to ensure a safe and successful mission.