- Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin’s parents rally against Fla. ‘stand your ground’ law
- Hillary Clinton campaign got illicit funds from D.C. scandal figure
- Obama administration backs off plan to cut prescription-drug program
- Tickets linked to stolen passports purchased by Iranian middleman
- More than 3,500 police planned for Boston Marathon
- Ottawa day care suspends 2-year-old for ‘outside’ cheese sandwich
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to ‘man up’ in horse carriage fight
- Real-life Dr. Doolittle to reveal how to talk to animals
- Climate change could bring back smallpox, researchers say
- Shoe-bomb witness to speak from London at N.Y. trial
Military pilots learn to avoid copter crashes
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (AP) — At a sprawling base set amid the wire-grass pastures of southern Alabama, the Army is teaching its next class of helicopter pilots how to avoid getting shot down when it’s their turn to go to Iraq.
Sometimes you fly high, they learn, and sometimes you go low. Vary your speed, and don’t fly the same route too often. And always — always — know what’s going on around you because it doesn’t take much more than a single gun on the ground to take down even the most advanced helicopter.
“Self-preservation is what the key is,” said Chief Warrant Officer Troy A. Wyatt, an instructor at the Army’s aviation school at Fort Rucker.
The Pentagon has reported eight incidents in the past month in Iraq in which helicopters either were shot down or forced under fire to land. Military officials say the terrorists are increasingly targeting helicopters, firing simultaneously from different directions with an assortment of weapons, including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
“We continually work very closely with the units that are in theater in Iraq, and as they return home, we identify how they are doing business, how they are fighting the enemy on the ground in Iraq, and anything we need to do to change or adjust the training here,” said Col. Dan Stewart, who is responsible for flight training.
After 51/2 years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 90 percent of the instructor pilots at Rucker have recent combat experience. They turn out about 1,150 fliers each year, and many of them are flying combat missions within six months of leaving the post, 90 miles south of Montgomery.
With two Iraqi combat tours behind him, Chief Warrant Officer Wyatt can tell a new flier stories about steering an AH-64D Apache Longbow through the deadly skies around Baghdad. He knows about avoiding insurgent fire and providing cover for the infantry below.
The training at Fort Rucker begins with ground school and advances quickly to Warrior Hall, where new pilots learn the basics of flying helicopters in simulators resembling white fiberglass campers on spindly metal legs. They get their first taste of flight in TH-67 trainers.
With months of basics behind them, student pilots move into the Army’s most advanced helicopters: the Apaches, built for attack missions; OH-58D reconnaissance aircraft; CH-47 Chinook transports; and UH-60 Black Hawks, built for ferrying troops on assault missions.
Some trainees come in off the street as young as 19. Others already have a feel for what they face: Lt. Jon Finch was an Apache crew chief in Afghanistan with the North Carolina National Guard before being accepted into pilot school.
Like everyone else at Rucker, he has heard the grim statistics from the past month in Iraq.
“It makes it real,” said Lt. Finch, 27. “You feel sorry for the families it happens to.”
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- Depth, distance reduce impact of California quake
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: 'We are going to crush them'
- SAUERBREY: Taxing Marylanders until they flee
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Sharyl Attkisson resigns from CBS after months of talks
- CARNES: Kissinger's flawed and offensive analysis of Ukraine
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again