PEO Aviation certifies National Guard pilots on UH-72B

PEO Aviation certifies National Guard pilots on UH-72B

14-Jun-2023 Source: US Army

It’s not often that a small team is credited with advancing an entire program within U.S. Army Aviation, but PEO Aviation’s Utility Helicopters Project Office (UHPO) did just that by establishing a certification program for operators and maintainers of the Army’s newest light utility helicopter variant.

The UH-72 Lakota helicopter is a commercial-off-the-shelf helicopter manufactured by Airbus. It is versatile aircraft capable of performing important missions such as disaster relief, humanitarian, and search and rescue. It also serves as the primary aircraft for the Army’s initial rotary wing flight training. The training, which takes place at Ft. Novosel, Alabama, is conducted using a fleet exclusively composed of more than 200 UH-72 Alpha model helicopters.

When the Army signed a contract in 2020 to acquire 18 UH-72 Bravo model aircraft to field to the Army National Guard, there was no place for pilots and maintainers to receive formal training on the aircraft. That’s when the UHPO’s Light Helicopter Product Office stepped in.

They established a training program in Huntsville, Alabama to address the need to certify pilots on the helicopter, coordinated with Airbus and an additional vendor to train the Army National Guard on the airframe and engine maintenance as the aircraft was being fielded to Guard units.

To deliver on this mission, the product office worked closely with the aircraft manufacturer, the Directorate of Training and Doctrine and the Directorate of Evaluations at Ft. Novosel to develop the Program of Instruction (POI) to train and certify pilots and maintainers on the aircraft.

“Establishing the POI took a lot of effort by personnel from the Light Helicopter Product Office,” said Hal Ridley, the deputy product manager for the Light Utility Helicopter Product Office. “The effort took almost a year to develop and get approved before pilot training could begin.”

The three-week course comprised of 16 lessons along with more than 14 flight hours, began in September 2021 and completed the final iteration in June 2023. In all, 50 pilots and 72 maintainers representing seven states have completed certification training to operate and maintain the newest version of the Lakota.

The course provides qualification for ‘train-the-trainer’ which enables pilots certified through the course to take that knowledge back to their units to train others while the vendors will continue to teach the maintainer course.

“With the addition of the UH-72B Lakota to our fleet, the U.S. Army increases our capability to save lives, protect communities and provide disaster relief when it’s needed most,” said Col. Calvin Lane, U.S. Army Project Manager for Utility Helicopters. “The Lakota helicopter has been a staple of the Army for more than 15 years now, and we look forward to benefitting from the latest technologies and performances that the newest 72B variant will provide.”

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