He is the commander of each flight – the chief pilot. What makes a good chief pilot? What must he do when everything goes wrong? The newest generation of chief transport pilots learned firsthand the answers to these questions during a week of especially challenging training
A special training exercise was held for the newest generation of commanders from the “Kings of the Air” and “First” squadrons at Sde Dov airbase. During the four days of training, they flew Beechcraft King Air planes and developed basic flying skills as well as the ability to deal with different extreme situations. As flight commanders or “chief pilots”, they are responsible for the flying operations of the mission and even play a crucial role in case of a technical malfunction. As such, they have to be creative and think outside the box.
“The goal for the chief pilots is to open up their mind to things they haven’t yet encountered”, explains Captain Itay from the “Kings of the Air” squadron, who is responsible for the training exercise. “The whole exercise is aimed at operational thinking that touches the basics of flying while dealing with special scenarios they are unfamiliar with from their day-to-day work at the squadrons”.
During the whole exercise, the teams had to plan the flights by themselves and to translate the orders into actions.
Additionally, the chief pilots practiced for unplanned events and mandatory changes during the mission: when they were in the air, they had to cope with the loss of contact during landing, sudden flight bans in light of new threats, receiving intelligence during the mission, emergency landings, etc.
“The whole week was filled with an atmosphere of uncertainty with many types of missions”, explains First Lieutenant Aviv, a pilot in the “First” squadron who took part in the training. “For example, during one of the flights we received changes to the mission in the air and after an hour we found ourselves landing on a distant airstrip. When things like this happen, what you can do is find a way to carry out the mission and fly where you need to”.
The chief pilots had to deal with extraordinary missions that are usually characteristic of Heavy Transport Division missions: low-altitude, tactical navigation flights without GPS, planning with the help of maps, exercise airdrops, evacuations and using special measures for night vision.
“Usually the Beechcraft King Air planes fly at really high altitudes”, adds First Lieutenant Aviv. “When you need to use them to carry out low-altitude navigation flights while maintaining the flying formation and with unplanned events, it strengthens the fundamentals of flying and also develops operational flexibility. In fact, it adds to the list of solutions every pilot has memorized”.
The planners of the exercise wanted to present the chief pilots with a wide range of complex challenges that will help them deal with extreme scenarios in the future.
“Ultimately, it’s safe to say that they won’t have to deal with most of the scenarios in real time”, says Captain Itay. “These diverse scenarios are designed to develop their operational thinking and their ability to manage a mission and not necessarily to touch upon anything specific that might happen. It’s important that they be ready to deal with anything that might happen and to know how to manage in real time”.