Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 is visiting from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to reinforce the Aviation Combat Element of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 3, during Rim of the Pacific 2012.
In preparation for integrating with the heavy-lifters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, the nucleus of SPMAGTF-3 ACE, HMLA-169 hosted cross-cockpit training for ‘Pegasus’ CH-53E pilots here July 7 in an effort to better understand each other’s platforms and capabilities.
Pilots and aircraft of the two squadrons will be operating from the flight deck of USS Essex (LHD 2) during the multinational exercise and will be further reinforced by aviation support assets and land-based fixed-wing aircraft deployed to Oahu from home stations throughout the Pacific.
Integration of various Marine aviation units and capabilities during RIMPAC exposes the participants to new perspectives.
“One of the most notable differences with flying the two aircraft was the quicker control response I felt from the UH-1Y,” said Capt. Jonathan A. Chunn, a CH-53 pilot with HMH 463, after his first flight at the controls of a UH-1Y. “There was a noticeable difference in the effects the wind had on the aircraft, especially at lower airspeeds.”
The value of the cross training is immediate.
“Knowing what the other guy sees and does in his aircraft is huge,” said Capt. Alex J. Runyan, a UH-1Y “Super Huey” helicopter pilot with HMLA-169. “When he’s able to see what our sensor looks like, our fields of view, our visibility in the aircraft, how we fly the aircraft, all the radios that we have; our capabilities, when you can picture the other guy that you’re working with on the other side of the battle space.”
The helicopters from the newly composited squadron, designated HMH-463 (reinforced) will fly onto USS Essex July 11 and will support the nine-nation ground force of SPMAGTF-3 with offensive air support, aerial reconnaissance, assault support, and command and control in the execution of amphibious and combined-arms operations.
But before they operate at sea, the pilots and aircrew are using this “harbor phase” of RIMPAC to acclimate to flying considerations in Hawaii and on ship.
“It takes a lot more coordination on the [flight] deck,” Runyan said. “You don’t have a huge flight line and you have a ton of aircraft out there.”
Along with the space limitations, they also faced different weather patterns.
As for Runyan, being away from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and flying in a tropical setting also posed a change from the norm.
“(There might be) a socked in ceiling [at Camp Pendleton], which may start to come down on you, but [here there are] random rain cells coming through that you have to dodge,” said Runyan. “You can get a forecast… but once you get up there you never know.”
Overall, Runyan said Chunn had a smooth first flight in the Super Huey. The flight proved to be more than scenic, adding valuable experience to their piloting repertoire.
“To be at the controls, see what they’re seeing inside the cockpit, it was definitely benefiting,” Chunn said.