Army Aviation

Warrant Officer Flight Training A Historical Perspective

Chief Warrant Officer / By CW5 Allen R. Godfrey: As of this December, the first LUH-72 Initial Entry Rotary Wing (IERW) class is undergoing training. The model for IERW continually updates to take advantage of the resources, technology, and modernization of Army Aviation. Many years ago, flight school utilized a model know as Multi-track.

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WOC Thomas French and WOC Godfrey enjoying time away from TAC Officers. / PHOTO PROVIDED BY CW5 RANDY GODFREY

This is an excerpt from a paper written on 18 Oct. 1989 based on the experiences gained during my stay at Fort Rucker. I graduated on 13 Apr. 1989 from Multi-track as a fully qualified AH-1 Cobra Aviator.
All of the Army’s flight training takes place at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. Upon arrival at Ft. Rucker, the soldier becomes a Warrant Officer Candidate (WOC). Throughout the stay until graduation, this is lovingly known as Candidate. This sometimes is a rank void where the WOC is the lowest ranking individual in the Army, although technically between the enlisted and officer rank.

Training Phases
The first phase of training is the six-week Warrant Officer Entry Course (WOEC). The WOC is given a myriad of tasks to complete and time schedules to meet, but finds there is not enough time in the day to meet all deadlines and requirements. The WOC therefore learns attention to detail and how to prioritize time wisely. During WOEC, the WOC does not appreciate learning these skills, however, they become vitally important when flying begins later on.

The persons who help or motivate the WOCs during the stay at Ft. Rucker are the Training, Advising, and Counseling (TAC) Officers. They are senior warrant officers whom the Army has selected to come to Ft. Rucker and assist the WOC in the transition from enlisted soldier to Warrant Officer Aviator. The only allowable position from which to speak was the position of attention. If, at any time, the WOC fumbled words or did not remain at attention with eyes forward, they were rewarded with being told their errors and being allowed to go to the “best learning position,” which was the leaning rest position (up position for pushups). It was amazing how quickly one learns in this fashion.

At last, the long-awaited day is at hand. The WOC enters a flight class and receives flight clothing and gear. This ranges from Nomex flight suits to the SPH-4 flight helmet. Maybe now the dream of flying is going to become a reality. It is also discovered that the Nomex flight suit is designed not only to keep the heat out, but also to keep the heat in. Ft. Rucker can be somewhat hot and humid during the summer.

This period, known as the primary phase, is where the WOC learns the basics of flight. They start with the tricky maneuver called hovering, in which the prospective aviator tries to keep the aircraft motionless over one spot. This requires constant attention, as the aircraft is trying to move in three directions all seemingly at the same time. However, after a few hours, it all starts to come together.

After successful completion of the Primary Phase, the WOC progresses to the Instrument Phase. The Instrument Phase is broken into two parts: First is Basic Instruments (BI), which is conducted in the UH-1 flight simulator; second is Advanced Instruments (AI), which is conducted in the UH-1 aircraft. During BI, the student learns to keep control of the aircraft by flying using only the instruments. During AI, under the hood, the student actually flies the aircraft from Cairns Army Airfield at Ft. Rucker to another airport in Alabama, Florida, or Georgia, using only instruments. The consensus of students is that if you can pass the Instrument Phase and checkride, then you are going to make it through flight school.

After successful completion of the Instrument Phase, the WOC goes to Senior Phase. The WOC wears the Black Tab on the uniform and all the candidates junior must salute and call them “Sir” or “Ma’am.” The WOC is now starting to feel more like an officer than an enlisted Soldier. It also signals the transition to the aircraft flown during the first part of the Army career. This is part of the Multi-track System of flight training.

Aircraft Tracks
There are four possible aircraft tracks: two utility aircraft, the UH-1 Huey and the UH-60 Blackhawk; one scout aircraft, the OH-58 Kiowa; and, one attack aircraft, the AH-1 Cobra. The selection process is based on a number of areas. First is the Army need in each aircraft. Second is student ranking based on checkride and academic scores. Additionally, there is an algorithm test taken before flight school that categorizes each aircraft skill level. Finally is student desire, based on order of preference, of one of the four aircraft. All this information is placed into a computer; it throws its dice and out comes the aircraft selections for each class.

From this point on, the class members go to the four separate airfields for tactical training in their aircraft. The UH-1 students go to Lowe AHP; the UH-60 students go to Cairns AAF; the OH-58 students go to Shell AHP; and the AH-1 students go to Hanchey AAF. They are taught the mission and tactical aspects of their individual aircraft, now by military flight instructors. This is broken down into phases, which consist of Basic Combat Skills, Night Vision Goggles, and Advanced Combat Skills. Additionally, the UH-60, OH-58, and AH-1 students have a four-week transition course where they learn the systems and how to fly their aircraft. The AH-1 students also have a two-week aircraft gunnery phase.

During the four-week Basic Combat Skills (BCS), the students are taught to fly Nap of the Earth (NOE). They are also taught the art of landing and taking off from confined areas and pinnacles. They are taught how to get from place to place using tactical maps. It is during this phase that the basic missions for each individual aircraft are taught.

After BCS comes Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) conducted using the Army’s AN/PVS-5 or AN/AVS-6 night vision devices. This phase is the most mentally demanding on the student and potentially the most dangerous. Due to the close proximity to obstacles, this is more dangerous than instruments because the IP has less time to react to a situation. However, the student, by this time, is familiar enough with the aircraft and its controls to minimize the danger.

The last flight phase is the two-week Advanced Combat Skills (ACS). During this phase, multiship missions are conducted in which all aspects of the aircraft and its missions are carried out. All the prior training is combined and utilized. All of the aircraft class members work together on each day’s task because usually all of the members take part in the simulated mission.

Finally, the long awaited and sweated-out for graduation is at hand. The graduation festivities take place over a three-day period for the WOCs. The first day is an awards ceremony and a Mom and Pop’s tour of Ft. Rucker. The second day the WOCs become warrant officers in a ceremony in which they are discharged as enlisted soldiers and appointed as warrant officers. The last day is the most important – the ceremony for the awarding of wings takes place. From this point on, they are fully qualified Army Warrant Officer Aviators. It is from here that the Army flying career begins and realization of the dream.

Remember to start our day asking, “What are we doing for the Warfighter?” At the end of the day, the answer is, “We provided no fail support to the Warfighter on the ground and in the air.” “Above the Best”

CW5 Allen R. “Randy” Godfrey is the chief warrant officer of the Aviation Branch with the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, AL.