US Air Force, October 03, 2008 - Robins Air Force Base, GA by Holly Birchfield 78 ABW/PA - - Robins is celebrating the TH-1H's rising success.
Class 09-02 in the Undergraduate Pilot Training program at Fort Rucker, Ala., took its first flight on the TH-1H helicopter trainer on Sept. 15.
The aircraft transforms a Vietnam Era UH-1H, commonly called a Huey, into a modernized training platform that brings helicopter pilots' training into the 21st Century.
Paulette Lemons, director, 573rd Aircraft Sustainment Squadron whose office serves as the system program office for the TH-1H, said the flight is a great success for Air Force and Army's joint effort with supporting the aircraft.
"In March of '04, the Army deputy chief of staff approved the transfer of 40 UH-1H/V aircraft to the Air Force, and the Air Education and Training Command made the decision to use 24 of them to support student undergraduate pilot training. We used 16 of them as harvest birds to support the modification of those 24."
Ms. Lemons said Robins is responsible for ensuring that Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor, and Ozark, Ala.-based Bell Aero Helicopter/US Helo, the subcontractor for this effort, completed the modification on time.
Ms. Lemons said engines for the TH-1H were provided by McTurbine Inc. in Corpus Christie, Texas.
As of Sept. 30, 15 of the 24 TH-1H aircraft have been delivered to AETC, Ms. Lemons said.
Ms. Lemons said the TH-1H's initial flight is good news for those who support it.
Maj. Sammie Thompson, Huey Flight chief in the 573rd ACSG/GFLA, said reaching the milestone affirms an outstanding team effort.
"It's one we've been waiting on with great anticipation because any Air Force helicopter pilot will go through this school and the TH-1H is the only training platform that they'll use," he said.
Maj. Richard Antoine, 573rd ACSS' director of operations, said it's great to see hard work pay off.
"I've been with the squadron only a short time, but what strikes me is the hard work that Major Thompson and his flight have put into this," he said. "While the TH-1H was really just supposed to be a modification program, the level of effort has been like a complete acquisition of a new platform. It has been that much work."
Ms. Lemons said the TH-1H's first flight has proven it's capable of training students quicker with better technology.
"It's going to mean that AETC will now be able to perform better and probably at a faster pace with its undergraduate pilot training for a bigger cadre of students," she said.
Ms. Lemons said although the TH-1H is on the path of success, there's more to be done with the aircraft.
"While we are still rocking and rolling trying to get all four lots delivered, we still have some technical issues we're working with," she said. "We're continuing to do all of the provisioning to get all of the tech data out to the field, getting it corrected. We're trying to make sure the aircraft is fully fielded, funded, and supported by the users."
In addition, Ms. Lemons said the Air Force will deliver a TH-1H simulator to the Fort Rucker school in January 2009, which will enable continued and increased training of students.
"We're looking at an operational date of January 2009 and a full operational capability date of October 2010," Ms. Lemons said.