The Afghan helicopter pilot students began their practical flight training with the Mi-17 helicopter in early November at the Shindand Air Base. They carried out their first flights together with the instructors of the seventh rotation of the HDF Mi-17 Air Advisory Team (AAT-7). Soon, new aircrew members, flight technicians and riflemen will increase the Afghan Air Force strength. Nevertheless, the young candidates will have to complete several flights and other type of tasks until graduation.

The new Afghan group began their training in Mid-September 2013. During the first two and a half weeks, the students had continuous classroom instruction, and received either jointly or separately – depending upon their positions - the material of the theoretical lectures relevant to them, from the American and Hungarian lecturers. In the third week, they broke up for a while, as one of the great holidays of the Muslim world, the Eid commenced.

About two weeks later, the group assembled again, and after a brief repetition, they began the flight simulator training, where they could practice - in nearly real circumstances – starting the aircraft engine, controlling systems, flying, performing various activities during the flight and in special cases, and stopping the engine. Meanwhile, they did not forget about the appropriate radio operations and the collaboration within the crew. The riflemen did not rest either, they went on familiarising themselves with the deck machine gun and learned the English expressions, which help the pilots at take-offs and landings, or at accelerating and approaching the landing site.

At the end of the land-based training course, all of the students proved their preparedness at a theoretical examination, thereby demonstrating that the time has come to start flight practices.

On November 3, in the early morning hours the designated crews assembled, then in a common briefing they repeatedly went through the tasks scheduled for that day, listened to the reconnaissance information and the weather forecast in the area. In what followed, the crews went to the planes, so that finally they could take to the air.

At the end of the first day, the instructors concluded that their students accomplished their tasks fairly well. The aviators’ performance clearly showed that they have already flown the MD-530 type nearly one hundred hours, so what they really needed was to learn about the characteristics of the Mi-17and not helicopter flight training. In connection with the flight technicians and the riflemen, there were also positive observations; consequently, the first flight day was a success.

Owing to the difference in number of the aviators, technicians and the riflemen, the Hungarian and the American instructors are continuously working out ways to make it possible that the group members regardless of their positions can graduate all at one time. The instructors carry out four tasks a day, which is extremely exhausting for them, as they now number only three, so one instructor sits in the plane for almost four hours, in heavy survival equipment. The flight technician and rifleman instructors are under similar pressure owing to their insufficient number.

It is much to the credit of the Hungarian and the American team, that in spite of the insufficient number and the stressful force protection duty, they try to keep to the timetable of the flight training. In short, it has become more and more probable day after day, that the graduation of the students might take place still in this year, so that they can start their service within the Afghan Air Force after getting to the executive units.

(HDF Mi-17 AAT-7)