Vance Jayhawks fly north to maintain expertise

  • Published
  • By Capt. Shelley Spreier
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Michigan, hosted 40 of the 3rd Flying Training Squadron’s members and 13 of their aircraft Aug. 24 to 26, 2018.

The weekend’s purpose was to fine tune skills while fostering friendly competition and comradery.

Each crew of two or three instructor pilots loaded into their aircraft and departed Vance Air Force Base for the first leg of their trip Aug. 24. The pilots took turns practicing simulated air refueling and air drop maneuvers as they made their way to Arkansas to refuel.

After another two-hour leg, the IPs participated in a spot-landing contest before coming to a full stop in Michigan.

An instructor pilot in the 3rd Flying Training Squadron spends, on average, 20 hours per week in the T-1A Jayhawk aircraft. Flight time is dedicated to training future airlift and tanker Air Force aviators. Each flight lasts approximately four hours and can span anywhere within 600 nautical miles of Vance AFB.

In order to develop world-class aviators, the instructors must maintain certain qualifications. This can be a challenge considering the amount of time spent in the air with students.

“The further along in pilot training a student gets, the IP will need to take the yoke less and less to show them how to do it,” said Maj. Peter Culbert, 71st Flying Training Wing executive officer.

“By the time we get a student ready for their check ride, they should be flying 90 to 100 percent without the need for IP intervention. As an IP, you could go weeks without flying a certain profile depending on what phase of training your students are in,” said Culbert.

To mitigate that challenge, the 3rd FTS dedicates one weekend a year to continuation training. Each IP has a required number of training events they must accomplish to remain current and continue to fly with students.

Some events, such as landings and instrument approaches, are required once every 45 days. For other events, such as low levels and formation flights, instructors are required to accomplish a certain number in a six-month period.

Continuation training ensures instructors can perform the maneuvers they are required to teach and evaluate.

“The Alpena trip provided an incredible opportunity for our squadron members to interact and bond while focusing on everyone's yearly training requirements,” said Culbert.

“It is a very complicated task to get 13 aircraft, paired up into formations, to meet very specific arrival times at an unfamiliar airfield,” he said.

The mock deployment to Alpena allows Mobility Air Force experienced aviators the opportunity to mentor first-assignment instructor pilots on what to expect when planning and executing mission sets that are common in combat operations.

“The FAIPs then provide their experience in T-1 specific skillsets in which our MAF aviators may not be as practiced or experienced. The trip allows us to maintain our proficiency, develop experience in deployment requirements, limitations and flexibility, and share instructor teaching techniques to better improve student training,” said Culbert.