The Flight Academy’s Helicopter Division deployed to Ouvda AFB this week and utilized the vast desert by flying between the mountains. The cadets also performed solo flights and experienced landing the helicopters in unfamiliar terrain

Tal Giladi

Every six months the Flight Academy’s Helicopter Division lands in Ouvda AFB and makes the breathtaking sites of the Arava Desert – the mountains and valleys – its playground for a full week. During their time in the division, the cadets study the foundations of helicopter flight and learn to live the terrain they operate in.

“The goal of the deployment is to venture outside the flight academy the cadets are used to, gain flight and navigation experience in unfamiliar terrain and deal with a different bases traffic”, shared Capt. Yotam, a Course Commander in the Helicopter Division.

Helicopters in the Desert

Archive Photo

Flying Alone and Low
The convoy of helicopters navigated throughout 300 km of desert from Hatzerim to Ouvda AFB. “Now the cadets have the opportunity to examine unfamiliar terrain, choose a point they want to land on and understand how to do so in the given conditions”, explained Capt. Or, a Flight Instructor. “During one of the sorties they performed a mutual sortie, which means flying the helicopter by cadets only, without the interference of an instructor. They flew to the mountains, landed the helicopter at a certain point where the instructor disembarked with a walkie-talkie and from which the cadets continued on their own and landed the helicopter in three different predefined points”.

While in the advanced stage (the final stage of flight training in the IAF) the cadets learn to become helicopter pilots, the primary stage tests which of the cadets have the abilities to become pilots. In it, the cadets focus on flying, aerial navigation, landing and taking off. They debrief and solve emergency scenarios in order to learn and test the cadet’s control of the helicopter.

In Ouvda AFB they routinely fly twice a day, a factor that requires them to be alert and sharper than usual. “When deploying to a new base, there are many factors besides the flight itself that require thought, such as understanding and fit in a different base’s aerial traffic”, shared Tal, a flight cadet from the helicopter division. “We feel that this is the time to demonstrate the level we have reached, learn as much as we can from each flight and of course enjoy the scenery”.

Helicopters in the Desert

Photography: Yechezkel Hezi Shmueli

A Whole New World
In the advanced stage, days becomes night and night becomes day. The cadets perform six flights a night in one week while focusing on low altitude flights and landing in different terrain throughout the deployment. The mountains in this area are characterized by difficult landing conditions and as such, require them to consider every detail and prepare meticulously. “The cadets have to become excellent at examining the terrain and creating an image of the area they will land in in their head. In addition, this will be the first time the cadets perform an instrument flight in the air and not in a simulator”, said Capt. Yotam.

Helicopters in the Desert

Photography: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit