SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Flight crews from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducted deck landing qualifications on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS McClusky (FFG-41) off the Pacific coast of Honduras, August 3-4, 2014.
The training, which took place approximately 20 miles off the coast, was done to qualify 1-228th Aviation Regiment pilots and crew chiefs on shipboard operations. The pilots and crews must perform deck landings every 6 months for a single landing pad ship and every 12 months for a multiple landing pad ship to maintain currency.
This was a unique training opportunity that most Army Aviators don't get the chance to complete but is necessary because of the missions they may be called to perform.
"We accomplish the deck landings to enhance our unit's capabilities to respond in case of any humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), or any other contingency mission that may arise," said U. S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Jeremy Turner, 1-228th Aviation Regiment standardization officer.
"Unique missions may occur that require us to operate in or near coastal areas that do not have fuel readily available," added U. S. Army Capt. Antony Vargas, 1-228th Aviation Regiment 'Alpha' Company commander. "Ships are mobile refueling platforms so being able to refuel on a ship increases our effective operating range."
The training was conducted using two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. The crews qualified first during the day, completing five landings each for initial day qualifications. The next day a select number of crewmembers returned to the USS McClusky to qualify under night vision goggles.
Landing a helicopter on a ship is a very challenging experience and the difficulty escalates quickly when you are trying to land on a moving object in the middle of the ocean.
"Landing on a ship is much more challenging because the ship is moving forward at a speed of about 16 knots and is also pitching and rolling with the seas," stated Vargas. "But it was a great opportunity to get quality joint service training. The training went smoothly and was executed according to plan and we look forward to the next training iteration in the future."
In all, nineteen pilots and thirteen crew chiefs went through the deck landing qualification training.
The 1-228th Aviation Regiment provides general aviation support for Joint Task Force-Bravo, to include MEDEVAC support, counter drug operations, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations throughout Central America. The unit trains regularly with other assets in the region to remain proficient in all aspects of their mission.