By Capt. Agneta Murnan
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The first all-Afghan C-27A crew, composed of an aircraft commander (pilot), co-pilot and loadmaster, took flight for a proficiency training mission lasting approximately one hour from the Kabul, Afghanistan, International Airport, and back, July 19, 2012.
“The mentors were flying with us before – they taught us so many things,” said Afghan air force Col. Aimal Pacha, aircraft commander and also C-27 squadron commander, assigned to the AAF Kabul Air Wing. “Now we are independent, and can fly by ourselves.”
To reach this point, explained Lt. Col. David Waller, the 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron’s director of operations, each crew member had to accomplish all of the qualification training and a final flight evaluation. For pilots, this qualification training consisted of hundreds of classroom academic lessons, C-27 flight simulator events and numerous aircraft training flights.
Training for loadmasters covered weight and balance dynamics within aircraft limitations, loading operations, passenger handling and forklift certification. In the case of the C-27As, advisers give loadmasters the nickname of ‘load-gineers’ because they also accomplish a number of ground and flight systems checks and procedures that are normally accomplished by those called ‘aircraft engineers’.
“We studied a long time and we did lots of training to get to this step — to finally execute a flight without any help from the mentors,” told Afghan AF Capt. Shahnawaz Nabi Zada, C-27A loadmaster assigned to the Kabul Air Wing and part of the three-person crew. “And the flight was accomplished successfully, so essentially it is an honor to the Afghans and to all the Afghan air force personnel.”
Before this independent proficiency sortie, crew members’ performance was evaluated individually by coalition advisors.
“This day marks a real turning point for the Afghanistan air force,” said Waller. “The AAF now has its first highly trained C-27A aircrew capable of providing humanitarian assistance and security to the great people of this country. It was an honor to fly with Colonel Pacha during the flights leading up to this historic event. He is an incredible leader, pilot and an asset to the country of Afghanistan. I am extremely proud of these great men for the hard work and dedication they displayed to make this day a reality. This will truly be the highlight of my time spent assisting the people of Afghanistan.”
The first C-27A aircraft were introduced to the Afghan air force in late 2009 for the development of Afghan airlift capabilities to move personnel and supplies. The C-27A is a rugged, twin-engine turboprop aircraft with short take-off and landing capabilities on unimproved airfields as short as 3,000 feet.
Since the first aircraft deliveries, the crews have been a mixture of coalition and Afghan members. Afghan aircrew members and their advisers overcame several challenges to get to this moment — including a fleet stand down lasting the better part of six months.
While fleet maintenance and fleet management were analyzed and the aircraft began being returned to flying status one-by-one, pilots and advisers worked hard on building knowledge for flight, passenger and cargo controls.
“During the standdown, we received a couple of variations of simulators; both of which have accelerated the Afghan air force and its ability to aviate proficiently,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jarrod Sebastian, 538th AEAS Superintendent. “Each loadmaster could scrutinize certain scenarios on the ground, and, more importantly, how they are to respond to them,” Sebastian said.
This is the first event in a series which will enable the crew to gain experience and instruct other AAF aircrew.
“This first flight signifies the result of many individuals’ hard work and dedication,” said Sebastian. “The AAF members are eager to support their country and are proud to do so.”
“Everything we learned was very useful during this solo flight; this is the reason that we executed this flight successfully without any issues,” said Nabi Zada. “We will teach our techniques to the others in the future.”
NTM-A is a coalition of 38 troop contributing nations assisting the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in generating a capable and sustainable Afghan National Security Force ready to take lead of their country’s security by 2014. For more information about NTM-A, visit www.ntm-a.com
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