By LTC James Rae: Located in scenic Bridgeport, West Virginia, the Fixed Wing Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (FWAATS) is the only Army National Guard (ARNG) training site that provides Army aviator (Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard) fixed wing training instruction. Since its inception as the Eastern Fixed Wing Training Site (later renamed FWAATS) in 1992, FWAATS has trained more than 2,500 Soldiers across all three Army components in the operation of Army standard and non-standard fixed wing aircraft. Accredited through The Army School System (TASS), FWAATS has on three occasions been certified as a “Learning Institution of Excellence” by TRADOC evaluation teams.
The three aircraft currently instructed by FWAATS: MARSS configured KA-300, C-26 (Metroliner) and C-12 (Huron). / U.S. ARMY FWAATS COURTESY PHOTO BY MSG JOHN CORBIN
FWAATS provides its students with some of the most complex and technically challenging aviation instruction in the Army. In addition to conducting aircraft qualification courses (AQC) in the C-12, C-26 and KA-300 (more than 25 Directorate of Training and Doctrine validated programs of instruction (POI)), FWAATS proudly notes that we’re the only Army training site that instructs a fixed wing Instrument Flight Examiner (IFE) Course (C-12 and C-26) and Maintenance Test Pilot Course (C-12 only). Although the aircraft was divested from the Army inventory in 2013, FWAATS was also the Army’s only C-23 (“Sherpa”) accredited training schoolhouse. It is as a result of our having trained more than 1,000 C-23 aircrew members and being recognized as the Army’s C-23 experts that FWAATS is being considered to train allied nations that purchase divested C-23s through the excess defense article program.
Quick Reaction Capability
An additional benefit FWAATS provides is the ability to conduct high quality, low cost fixed wing training on short notice. This ability to quickly adapt our course offering to qualify aircrews to execute missions vital to our nation’s defense was most recently demonstrated in Q2 FY15. Within two weeks of being fielded with a Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (MARSS) configured KA-300 aircraft, FWAATS began conducting KA-300 AQCs to prepare aviators to deploy in support of TF ODIN. As the result of TF ODIN mission analysis determining that aerial sensor operators (ASO) required additional training upon completing the ASO qualification course, FWAATS qualified ASO instructors and built and conducted a mission rehearsal training (MRT) POI to provide the deploying ASOs additional instruction. When a subsequent request from theater was received to conduct mission training for aviators post-AQC, FWAATS quickly developed a POI designed to reduce relief in place/transfer of authority task load by incorporating theater’s latest tactics, techniques and procedures. The above combine to illustrate that FWAATS’ mission focus has proven instrumental in ensuring aerial intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (A-ISR) aircrews have the skills necessary to succeed.
Two students conduct MARSS configured KA-300 pre-flight inspection prior to a training period. / U.S. ARMY FWAATS PHOTO BY MSG JOHN CORBIN
The FWAATS C-26 section also has an excellent record of supporting both the State and Federal mission. FWAATS trained C-26 aviators flying for the Operational Support Airlift Agency (OSAA) have supported Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) missions flown out of Afghanistan and Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, as well as U.S. Southern Command missions from Bogota, Colombia. Aviators who received their C-26 AQC instruction, instructor qualification or IFE training from FWAATS have provided a critical on-call, rapid response, modern air transport for high priority resupply and movement of key personnel to remote locations.
FWAATS is proud of the role we have played in training aircrews from all Army components to support cargo, A-ISR and non-executive airlift missions domestically and overseas for more than 20 years. As army fixed wing aviation mission requirements evolve and the future utility aircraft (FUA) is fielded, FWAATS staff’s unmatched operational and instruction experience have prepared us well to play a critical role in training the Army’s fixed wing aircrews of tomorrow.
FWAATS is widely considered to be the Army’s premiere fixed wing aviation training site and is committed to working tirelessly to train Army fixed wing aircrews to successfully support future missions.
To learn more about the Fixed Wing Army Aviation Training Site, please visit http://www.wv.ngb.army.mil/aviationfwaats/
LTC James Rae is the commander of the Fixed Wing Army National Guard Aviation Training Site located in Bridgeport, WV.