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NEWS | March 27, 2019

Refurbished aircraft provides operational training

By Senior Airman Tristan Biese 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The CH-47 Chinook and the UH-60M Blackhawks are advanced multi-purpose helicopters but with a different set of missions. However, one thing is consistent with both aircraft – the U.S. Army Soldiers that work on them.

The 128th Aviation Brigade ensures that the Soldiers’ training is realistic, relevant, and rigorous, enabling them to make a positive impact at their first duty assignment. One of the ways the Soldiers are trained is with the various Chinook and the Blackhawk trainers.

“The frame of the aircraft and some of the components in it are real,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Fraley, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 210th Avn. Regiment, 128th Avn. Bde. instructor. “They are actual aircraft components but they are out of an aircraft that is essentially salvaged.”

Instead of sending broken or unserviceable aircraft to a scrapyard, the 128th Avn. Bde. will take refurbished aircraft and turn them into training aircraft or reuse parts for Soldiers to learn on.

“It may be a trainer and it may not actually fly, but they mimic a real aircraft almost to a T,” said Fraley. “[The trainers are made] to teach the Soldiers how to troubleshoot problems and allows them to actually see what they would see on a real aircraft.”

Some of the problems the Soldiers learn how to troubleshoot are fires on the aircraft, replacing broken parts, repairing faulty wiring and other mechanical or electrical problems. The trainers can even run their engines and rotors to simulate flight.

“Trainers like these aid in producing well-trained aviation maintainers which support the Army's overall mission,” said Wesley Easley, 128th Avn. Bde. deputy brigade operations officer.

The trainers’ capabilities of being able to mimic an actual aircraft and its potential problems provide the Soldiers with the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them.

“These [trainers] will not be flying,” said Fraley. “So we are not worried if [the Soldiers] drop a tool and it damages something else. They can make those mistakes and learn from them here, instead of going to a unit and damaging something.”

The trainers are built to be safe and cost effective, so that if a Soldier does make a mistake the trainer or its parts do not completely break.

“The learning experience is enhanced because the student has to perform the same procedures they would in an operational unit,” said Easley. “Students acquire the problem solving skills needed to perform in their units.”

The rotors that spin the blades, all the way down to the smallest screw that holds a panel in place, affect whether a CH-47 Chinook or UH-60M Blackhawk is flyable; it’s the realistic helicopter trainers here that help the Soldiers know how to keep those aircraft in the air.