Fighter pilot flies UH-1N, gains perspective
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Air Force has a tradition of encouraging command leadership to take pilot courses on the aircraft that support their mission. Lt. Gen. John Dolan, U.S. Forces, Japan and 5th Air Force commander, recently had the opportunity to take the key staff course and fly an aircraft that often transports him to locations throughout the Kanto Plains, the UH-1N Iroquois.
"The purpose of the key staff course is to help senior leadership understand the capabilities and limitations of the aircraft available to them," Jacobs said. "This is so that they can better understand how to employ the aircraft and related personnel. For example, when it looks clear, blue and warm outside but we can't fly because winds are blowing, it can be difficult for the pilot of a heavier aircraft like the C-130 to understand the limitations of a smaller airframe without piloting it firsthand."
The key staff course involves four flights, three during the day and one at night. For the first flight, Dolan, traditionally an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, flew the UH-1N for two hours.
Supporting Dolan throughout the flight were two UH-1N crewmembers, Capt. Brandon Jones, 459th Airlift Squadron chief of standards and evaluation, and Tech. Sgt. David Jacobs, 459 AS special missions aviator.
Before the flight, Jones and Jacobs walked with Dolan around the aircraft and explained the basic mechanics of the exterior airframe. Jones also instructed Dolan on practicing emergency egress procedures and familiarized him with the cockpit controls and gauges. Dolan asked questions on various features in the cockpit, pointing at gauges and testing the grip and movement of the control stick. After completing the ground training, the three buckled up and Dolan took the aircraft into a hover.
"It was a great opportunity to see how the 459 AS does its mission," Dolan said. "Going from a fixed wing to a rotary wing was a big difference. Fortunately, I had some great instruction from Capt. Jones and Tech. Sgt. Jacobs."
Dolan practiced sideways, forward, backward and vertical movement as well as transiting and hovering.
"I've really been wanting to do a course with the 459 AS because I have the privilege of riding with them often," Dolan said. "I wanted to get an appreciation for them because I usually only get to see them briefly and don't get to visit with the crew and squadron."
Jacobs said that he enjoys working with fixed wing pilots and seeing how their experience compares to rotary wing aircraft.
"They usually find it extremely strange to be 100 feet off the ground and not moving," Jacobs said. "Doing hover operations over a grassy area can also be disconcerting at first because they're used to staying over a flight line at low altitudes. Also, the three-dimensional movement a helicopter pilot navigates is a whole new experience for them. Every key leader I've flown with has talked about how unusual it feels to take control of a helicopter." Dolan said that the flight definitely helped him understand Yokota's UH-1N operations and has three more flights to better introduce him to the aircraft capabilities. He has been making his way through key staff courses with several airlift squadrons under his command, experiencing multiple aircraft flights.