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Helicopter Training in Uvda Release date 04.04.2019
Less than two months after the Helicopter Department cadets of Flight Course 181's first flights in the "Saifan" (Bell-206), they relocated to Uvda AFB for a week of training during which they flew in complex terrain and unfamiliar territory
Michal Ben-Ari | Photography: Mike Yudin

After a year of intense training, the IAF Flight Course cadets arrive at the course's Primary Stage, where they learn the flight elements in their respective divisions. We joined the Flight Course 181 Helicopter Division cadets for a week. Relocating from Hatzerim to Uvda AFB for the first time, the cadets flew on the "Saifan" (Bell-206) trainer helicopter.

Out of the Comfort Zone
"In my opinion, this is the most significant week of the Primary Stage", said Maj. A', a Helicopter Primary Stage Squadron Commander at the Flight Academy. "Every flight the cadets perform during this stage is challenging and useful, but this training week marks a quantum leap". Uvda's mountainous terrain is entirely different to Hatzerim's plain-field topography - this means that this is the cadets' first time flying in complex, mountainous areas. In addition, the cadets performed low-altitude navigations and a large amount of sorties.

"Taking the cadets out of their comfort zone is excellent", Lt. Col. (Res') Y', who visits the Flight Academy every week in order to share his experience with the young aircrew members. "The desert topography makes them fly differently".

In Uvda, each cadet flies two sorties per day. "We are responsible for the daily brief and the debrief at the end of each sortie. Most sorties deal with navigation, wherein the instructor flies the plane and the cadet navigates, and so we prepared the maps several weeks in advance", explained Cadet Y', who led the exercise alongside Capt. A', a flight instructor at the squadron.

Over the past 20 years, training in Uvda was held in a uniform manner. However, the current exercise saw a significant change following the establishment of the Ramon Airport in Eilat. This changed flight courses  in the Arabah, which posed a challenge for the exercise leaders. "In spite of the challenges, we achieved our goals successfully, and the new format will be utilized for years to come".

True Teamwork
Cooperation was emphasized in the morning brief, performed by one of the cadets. The Primary Stage's instruction staff underscored the fact that flight is both personal and cooperative. "A main component of teamwork is talking to each other during the flight in order to establish a sense of synergy", said Capt. A'. Maj. A' added: "Practicing teamwork during the sortie prepares the cadets for their arrival at the various operational squadrons, while also providing them with an opportunity to learn from their experienced instructors".

A Memorable Week
"There are flight elements you learn as a cadet during the Primary Stage which stay with you forever. Things so elementary you couldn't possibly do without them", emphasized Capt. A'. "As a cadet, I didn't understand that these things would stay with me throughout my operational service, but when I began instructing the cadets I realized that without these elements I wouldn't have been able to graduate from the course".

"The fact that the cadets undergo all these new experiences within a short period of time leaves a meaningful mark", said Lt. Col. (Res') Y'. "If we'd gone down to Uvda for just a sortie or two before returning to the Flight Academy, it wouldn't have been as useful. The experience of an entire week in Uvda is something they don't forget".

Even Maj. A', the commander of the Primary Stage squadron, remembers his week in Uvda very well. "I remember that it was difficult. My training made me wise up – the challenging situations you face make you realize why you have to be excellent at your work", he explained. "When performing complex missions - such as landing in a ravine, surrounded by tall mountains with a strong wind blowing - you understand why the flight instructor made sure to put a strong emphasis on such missions in Hatzerim. I remember that it was beautiful, and I remember myself landing in places I never thought I would be able to reach with a helicopter. These are things engraved deep into my memory".