- Marionville mayor ‘kind of agreed’ with Kansas City shooter’s views
- Rev. Al Sharpton’s Easter message: Politically ‘crucified’ Obama has risen again
- Supreme Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies
- UNICEF launches ‘Mr. Poo’ mascot in India to curb public defecation
- Teen taking selfie by train: ‘Wow, that guy just kicked me in the head’
- Goodbye, Afghanistan — hello, Africa: Air Force to shift as U.S. exits Middle East
- Iran mulls ban on vasectomies, decrease on abortions to bolster population
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers ‘more deadly than jihadists’
- Classes resume at high school rocked by stabbings
- ABC News accuses Center for Public Integrity of stealing Pulitzer-winning work
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 John R. Bolton
Reality calls for attaching Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- HURT: Wilson and Obama ... 100 years apart, but so alike
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- IRS emails reveal discussion with Justice about suing nonprofits for election activities
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers 'more deadly than jihadists'
- GOP writes legislation to deny Attorney General Eric Holder his salary
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
- Fuel-filled wings, ability to swarm: Pentagon offers glimpse at future of drone fleet
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.