The conversion of the 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell Airforce Base from airplane missions to helicopter training and flying is currently underway. This significant transition has been in the works for several years, and we now have a glimpse of the experience of sitting in the cockpit of a helicopter similar to the MH-139. A group of innovative young airmen devised an excellent plan to construct a virtual reality simulator to assist pilots in bridging the gap until the actual simulators arrive in January.
Although it may resemble a video game, the Virtual Reality Trainer is playing a crucial role in aiding pilots of the 908th Airlift Wing to learn how to operate the state-of-the-art avionics system in the MH-139 helicopters that are scheduled to arrive at Maxwell Air Force Base around March of 2024. Major Kyle Wamser is among the pilots who will be flying the new helicopters. According to Wamser, “The MH-139 is replacing helicopters that go back to the Vietnam era. This aircraft is going from very old, reliable but old technology up to very advanced modern aircraft.”
As the Grey Wolves prepare to arrive, a 35 million dollar construction project is already underway. Part of this project involves renovating three aircraft hangars previously occupied by C-130 airplanes. One of these hangars will serve as a specialized training facility equipped with flight simulators that are being manufactured in Italy. The other two hangars will accommodate up to ten MH-139 helicopters. However, since the C-130s were AC-powered and the MH-139s are DC-powered, the hangars need to be completely rewired. According to SMSGT Adam Childers, the switch in platforms will also affect the style of training that will be provided. Instead of just training new aircrew members for local missions, the focus will now be on training individuals to become operators for real-world missions.
According to Todd Taylor, the Director of the Program Integration Office, the arrival of the helicopters at the River Region will result in some noticeable changes for the residents. “You’ll witness helicopters flying over the treetops in your communities. Our training will mostly involve navigating 20 to 30 minutes out from Maxwell and landing in fields to practice unimproved landing areas,” he says.
The helicopter has a unique feature of being quieter than expected, with noise levels comparable to a modern dishwasher. Currently, only six of these helicopters exist, with two scheduled to arrive in the Capitol City in March or April, and four to be stationed at a base in Montana. The U.S. Air Force intends to own a total of 84 MH-139 helicopters eventually. Construction of the entire project at Maxwell Air Force Base is expected to be completed by the beginning of 2025.
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