Defense

December 1, 2017
 

Hawks Fly Solo

A student MQ-9 pilot from the 6th Attack Squadron prepares for his first solo flight at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Nov. 7, 2017. Solo flights build confidence, airmanship and a crew mentality more than academic classroom discussion, or under direct instructor supervision in the cockpit.

Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico is known as the base where combat air power starts.

The 6th Attack Squadron is the first ATKS to have solo flights during initial remotely piloted aircraft training. On Nov. 7th, after a month and a half of training, the Hawks had MQ-9 Reaper crews fly solo.

“Solo flights Air Force-wide is nothing new,” said Maj. Jay, 6th ATKS MQ-9 instructor pilot. “The RPA community is evolving and there are more demands placed on the weapon system and the aircrew training pipeline.”

Solo flights build confidence, airmanship and a crew mentality more than academic classroom discussion, or under direct instructor supervision in the cockpit.

The pilot and sensor operator were in constant contact with their instructors throughout the flight. Tools like video feed repeaters and Clear-Com, which is a fiber optic voice chat, allowed for continuous interaction between the crew and their instructors.

The aircrew students from the 6th Attack Squadron begin the steps prior to their first solo flight at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Nov. 7, 2017. Solo flights build confidence, airmanship and a crew mentality more than academic classroom discussion, or under direct instructor supervision in the cockpit.

“The solo flight is not designed to shorten the training timeline,” Jay said. “This is a quality enhancement change, not quantity.”

While no single person is responsible for the change of earlier solo flights during training, Air Force leaders have discussed the solo flight for the RPA community and how to implement this at the formal training unit level. This recent change is simply to instill legacy best practices to keep providing a relevant and lethal product for the warfighter.

“As a crew we were able to get the mission done today,” said 2nd Lt. John, MQ-9 Reaper student pilot. “I feel honored that the 6th was able to let us get to solo the aircraft. We were able to get that confidence boost to know we can get the mission done ourselves.”

With the RPA community still in its infancy, solo flights are a small step in refining the tactical professionalism of crews. Solo flights are now part of the most recent Air Combat Command syllabus for MQ-9 aircrew.  

“The Hawks are the first to solo an RPA crew,” said Jay. “We are excited about the success that this will bring to the operational units.”
 

Maj. Jay, 6th Attack Squadron instructor pilot, receives a briefing from a student sensor operator prior to the first solo flight for the aircrew at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Nov. 7, 2017. Solo flights build confidence, airmanship and a crew mentality more than academic classroom discussion, or under direct instructor supervision in the cockpit.




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