Army to Outsource Rotary-Wing Pilot Training: Flight School XXI Is Expected to Improve Overall Aviation Skills and Combat Readiness

By Colucci, Frank | National Defense, November 2002 | Go to article overview

Army to Outsource Rotary-Wing Pilot Training: Flight School XXI Is Expected to Improve Overall Aviation Skills and Combat Readiness


Colucci, Frank, National Defense


The U.S. Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., will revamp the way its pilots are trained, under a new program called Flight School XXI. Two large industry teams will be competing for a 2003 contract award.

FSXXI is designed to improve the readiness of operational units, officials said. The Aviation Center trains about 1,200 new rotary-wing aviators per year. The busy schoolhouse teaches individual flying skills on a mix of light training helicopters and "go-to-war" aircraft.

Graduates are expected to arrive at operational units ready for collective mission training on sophisticated Apaches, Black Hawks, Chinooks and Kiowa Warriors. However, over the past decade, operational commanders have had to spend extra flight hours preparing new pilots for collective training.

Col. Robert Carter, director of training, doctrine and simulation for the Aviation Center explains: "We believe FSXXI will give operational commanders and field commanders more qualified aviators better adapted to their training."

The modernized schoolhouse will standardize its initial entry rotary wing (IERW) helicopters, expand training in go-to-war aircraft and exploit a new generation of flight simulators to save on costly flight hours. Depending on their assigned aircraft, FSXXI students will spend three to six weeks less at Fort Rucker than they do today.

The shortened training syllabus is just about cutting costs, said Carter. "We think we're improving readiness and cutting down the amount of time [required for training] at a reasonable cost. ... We are going to produce an aviator who's more tactically and technically proficient and safer when he or she goes to the field unit."

To support FSXXI, an industry ream will be selected to provide high-fidelity flight simulators for the TH-67 IERW helicopter, advanced aviation institutional training simulators for combat aircraft and a training staff. "We're looking for one button to push," explains Cal. Michael Zonfrelli, commander of the Aviation Training Brigade at the Army Aviation Center.

A contract for Flight School XXI is scheduled to be awarded in 2003. Industry proposals were due in October 2002. STRICOM (Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Command) will manage the procurement and the contracting process. The Source Selection Evaluation Boards will include rep-resentatives of STRICOM and the Army Aviation Center.

The Boeing Co. and CAE announced in May that they would be teaming to compete for the contract. The subcontractors include ManTech Advanced Development Group Inc., Navigator Development Group Inc., Dynamics Research Corp. and Mevatec Corp.

Competing against Boeing-CAE will be a team led by Computer Sciences Corp. Subcontractors include FlightSafety International, L-3 Communications Link Simulation, NLX Corp., D&SCI and Isera Corp.

Training Tracks

Today's IERW helicopter fleet includes 154 Bell TH-67 Creeks--109 configured for basic "contact" training and 45 for instrument training. The single-track training program also uses 144 Bell OH-58A/C Kiowas and around 20 Bell UH-1H Hueys to teach basic combat skills. About three-quarters of the student flight hours are flown now on legacy aircraft no longer in active Army units.

While the Vietnam-era Kiowas and Hueys are relatively cheap to operate, they are tough to keep flying and unrepresentative of modern combat aircraft. Poor fleet availability has reduced flying hours per student from 175 hours in 1990 to 150 hours today. It also perpetuates a so-called training "bubble"--with around 100 students waiting to begin their flying. In addition, instructor pilots rotated through Fort Rucker from operational units erode their own skills by flying old aircraft. They need refresher training when they return to the field.

The current single-track training syllabus follows 32 weeks of IERW training with a six- to 14-week Aircraft Qualification Course (AQC) on modern operational aircraft. …

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