Colombian Air Force Trains Latin American Air Forces on Piloting Helicopters

Colombian Air Force Trains Latin American Air Forces on Piloting Helicopters

By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo
August 31, 2016

Hi Julieta,

Great article on Latin America Air Forces training. This will undoubtedly be useful training to help prevent criminal activity.

Thanks for the well-written article,
Dennis Within the framework of cooperation agreements signed between the United States and Latin American countries, a total of 14 officers from the armed forces of Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico will participate, starting July 11th, in the first military piloting course taught by the Colombian Air Force (FAC, for its Spanish acronym) on the Bell TH-67 Creek helicopter. The purpose of the course is to facilitate use of the aircraft in combating criminal activity. The FAC's 4th Air Combat Command (CACOM 4, for its Spanish acronym) is offering the first eight-week course on the TH-67 helicopter at the “Colonel Carlos Alberto Gutiérrez Zuluaga” Helicopter School of the Armed Forces (EHFAA, for its Spanish acronym). The course will be attended by seven Colombian Army officers, three FAC officers, two officers from the Mexican Naval Secretariat (SEMAR), one Guatemalan Air Force officer, and one Honduran Air Force officer. The instruction began on July 15th in Melgar, Tolima. "This is the first batch of students to fly in these [TH-67] aircraft, which are currently used by the United States for training military personnel. They are a variation of the Bell 206B-3," said Lieutenant Colonel John Jairo Pardo Torres, EHFAA's chief of Planning, in an interview with Diálogo. This is the 51st military pilot course. According to Lt. Col. Pardo, "The helicopter school has 30TH-67s whose purpose is to modernize the instruction of Latin American officers." Between 2016 and 2017, the FAC expects to receive 60 TH-67 helicopters through various U.S. Government military-assistance programs. They will replace Bell OH-58 KIOWA helicopters. The pilot course is designed for military personnel who don't necessarily have any knowledge of aviation. The participants must be in excellent psychological and physical condition and have a high academic level. The FAC is responsible for graduating rotary-wing aircraft pilots. During the course, the officers gain the knowledge, skills and abilities required to complete their missions by quickly and efficiently responding during emergency flight situations, conducting operations in secluded, wooded and obstructed terrains, and carrying out high-altitude landings. The youthful participants are trained to operate the TH-67's equipment, including how to handle cabin resources, aeronautics terminology, meteorology for aviators, aerodynamics of rotary-wing aircraft, basic aircraft-control maneuvers with high safety standards, different types of overland flight, basic knowledge for operating helicopters in hostile environments, and the use of night-vision goggles (NVG). It also includes an instrumentation and training phase in various Colombian cities to understand rotary-wing aviation operations. The modern double cabin of the Bell TH-67 helicopters enhances the instruction of the Latin American officials. "At the conclusion of the course, the officers will leave with an average of 110 hours of flight time and 30 hours of simulator time to make sure the pilot satisfies all the required conditions to fly in any mission, whether day or night," said Lt. Col. Pardo. The countries are responsible for making the transition to the aircraft used in their work. "Upon returning to my country, we will transition to the equipment we flew, the Bell UH-1H helicopters," said Honduran Air Force Second Lieutenant Fernando José Cerna Celaya to the FAC on July 15th. The air units play an important role in the fight against transnational organized crime groups. According to 2nd Lt. Cerna, the main challenge Honduras is facing is drug trafficking, a problem that affects all of Central America. "In the fight against drug trafficking in areas which are difficult to access, such as the Mosquito Coast of Honduras, the only way to get there is by helicopter when they do troop insertions and relieve the troops from the various battalions based in those places. We want to complete the missions in the most efficient way possible," said 2nd Lt. Cerna. Another thing that constitutes a great danger in Latin America is the possibility of having members of illegal armed groups “living off" illegal economies such as illegal mining or drug trafficking. It is relevant that the armies to use other types of equipment, arms and tools. "We have to keep the necessary modernization of our armies in mind in order to adapt to new realities, especially in the work against transnational organized crime," said Rubén Sánchez, researcher at Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia. As the first few weeks of training unfolded, the stringent academic demands, adapting to the academic schedule, culture and flight experience became immediate challenges. Because of its rigorous academic level, the CACOM 4 school is a benchmark for helicopter training. That is why the United States Government, through the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) "gave us the responsibility of forming Latin American crews and being a regional helicopter training leader," expressed Lt. Col. Pardo. "The Joint Rotary Wing Section of the U.S. Army mission of the Colombian Office of Security Cooperation is very pleased with the growth and development of the Colombian Air Force joint helicopter piloting school," said U.S. Air Force Captain Ruth Meacham, Joint Rotary-Wing Program Administrator. "The tremendous effort, the knowledge and the vision that has allowed the program to advance to being equivalent to a training at Fort Rucker says a lot about the Air Force, the Armed Forces, and Colombia's Ministry of Defense, SOUTHCOM, and the U.S. consultants and support staff that have contributed to it," she added. "With the introduction of the TH-67 helicopter, we hope to have many more years of successful training in the EHFAA." The helicopter school has 32 instructors who are highly trained in all phases of flight. They train 75 students every year through a program of five military pilot courses. Seventy percent of the instructors are from the Colombian Air Force, but instructors from the Colombian Navy and Army, as well as guest instructors from partner nations, also participate. During the 51st rotary-wing military-piloting course, CACOM 4 introduced Captain Israel Catarino Trejo into its ranks. He is an official OH-58 pilot in the Mexican Air Force, and his participation will strengthen the instruction of future pilots who will guard nations' sovereignty throughout Latin America. Since it was founded, the EHFAA has had Chilean and Peruvian instructors. The quality of the instructors is ensured through constant training and by searching for the latest teaching techniques, not only from Latin America, but also from Europe. During the first few days of August, U.S. instructors and personnel got to know the European Union's MCC (Multi-Crew Cooperation) methodology for handling security and coordinating in-cabin crews in conformance with international standards, according to a CACOM 4 report. "The helicopter school is an entity that ensures the quality of security at the regional level, a quality in training adhering to the highest standards recognized and certified by the United States in the best conditions," specified Lt. Col. Pardo. The high educational level and the excellent performance of the pilots trained at the CACOM 4 school have allowed Colombia to strengthen its bonds of cooperation and friendship around the world. "This program provides us with the continuous support and backing of the United States, as well as the strengthening of bonds of friendship with the armed forces of Latin America, who benefit from the FAC's instruction," concluded Lt. Col. Pardo.
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