New simulator pushes Afghan pilots’ capabilities

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan pilots now have a state-of-the-art MI-17 sim­u­la­tor here to hone their avi­a­tion skills in a safe envi­ron­ment.

Lt. Col. Chas Tache­ny, the deputy com­man­der of the 438 Air Expe­di­tionary Advi­so­ry Group, mon­i­tors two Afghan pilots as they use a new MI-17 sim­u­la­tor at Kab­ul Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, April 18. The state-of-the-art sim­u­la­tor is able to recre­ate numer­ous dif­fer­ent chal­leng­ing sce­nar­ios to test and enhance the pilot’s avi­a­tion abil­i­ties. (Air Force pho­to by Tech. Sgt. Jere­my Lar­lee)

Air Force Lt. Col. Chas Tache­ny, the deputy com­man­der of the 438th Air Expe­di­tionary Advi­so­ry Group, said he has been involved with bring­ing the MI-17V5 No-Motion Lev­el 5 Sim­u­la­tor to Afghanistan since July 2011 and he is impressed with the end result.

“In 21 years I don’t think I have flown in a bet­ter sim­u­la­tor. Afghanistan has an extreme­ly chal­leng­ing envi­ron­ment for heli­copters,” he said. “The high alti­tudes in Afghanistan push the per­for­mance enve­lope of the MI-17.”

The colonel said the sim­u­la­tor pro­vides a remark­able repro­duc­tion of the Afghanistan air space. He said it is impor­tant that the avi­a­tors are able to prac­tice their craft in a low-risk envi­ron­ment.

Instruc­tors are able to recre­ate numer­ous types of chal­leng­ing weath­er con­di­tions through the sim­u­la­tor. Avi­a­tors are also able to train on night oper­a­tions using night vision gog­gles and for­ma­tion fly­ing. Tache­ny said they are also able to prac­tice brownouts dur­ing land­ings which are one of the biggest risks to avi­a­tors in Afghanistan. The dusty cli­mate here can cause these dust storms to kick up with no notice and often blind pilots to all of their visu­al ref­er­ence points.

These sit­u­a­tions have been the cause of a few heli­copter crash­es in Afghanistan, explained Tache­ny, who said being able to prac­tice deal­ing with a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion in a sim­u­la­tor is invalu­able.

“In our his­to­ry in Afghanistan we have got­ten a lot of expe­ri­ence deal­ing with dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions,” he said. “We can put before the Afghans those chal­leng­ing sce­nar­ios and not have to wor­ry about hurt­ing per­son­nel and dam­ag­ing air­craft. We can repeat­ed­ly do this to fur­ther devel­op their capa­bil­i­ties.”

Tache­ny said a cer­tain per­cent­age of the flight deck had to con­tain orig­i­nal equip­ment that is in the actu­al MI-17 heli­copters. He said this lev­el of real­ism will pro­vide pos­i­tive ben­e­fits as well.

“The Afghans are touch­ing the actu­al con­trols,” he said. “So when they go to fly the air­craft there is not a habit trans­fer issue because it is the same mate­r­i­al.”

Afghan air force 1st Lt. Nas­rul­lah Khosti said he has enjoyed his time in the new sim­u­la­tor and he feels it is an impor­tant step for his coun­try.

“Every air force has to have sim­u­la­tors,” he said. “This helps us fix our prob­lems before we get in the air­craft.”

He said the train­ing he has got­ten from advi­sors has been cru­cial to his devel­op­ment as an avi­a­tor.

“The advis­ers are very kind peo­ple and they help us a lot,” he said “They have moti­vat­ed us and shown us how to be the best pilots pos­si­ble for our coun­try.”

Afghan air Force 1st Lt. Waheed Sediqe was impressed with his time in the sim­u­la­tor as well. He said it felt just like he was in the heli­copter. He is excit­ed to use it help him accom­plish his life-long dream.

“I’m very excit­ed to be a pilot for my coun­try, it has been my wish since I was a child,” he said. “Every day when I wake up and I put on my uni­form I’m proud. Because today is a day I can help my coun­try.”

U.S. Air Force