Thousands of hours of operations of British military helicopters in Afghanistan revealed a crucial gap in their pre deployment training.
For nowhere else on earth could they experience the fine dust storms that make desert landings and take offs among the most challenging manoeuvres.
So now before they can start operational sorties all rotary wing aircrews must be put through final training that can only be done once they arrive in Helmand.
The handover has recently underway from the Chinook crews of the RAF‘s Twenty-Seven Squadron to their replacements from Number Eighteen, with the outgoing crews helping to qualify the new arrivals.
Pilots call it “brown out “- the complete loss of vision, as the twin rotors swirl up a chocking, blinding cloud of fine sand that surrounds the cockpit.
Flt Lt Tim Andrews, just starting his third tour explained: “There doesn’t seem to be anything quite like Afghanistan dust. There’s something very fine and it’s difficult to recreate. We do try other areas and we do get some sort of simulation, but never quite the same.”
Aviators say the last few feet in these conditions are the most dangerous flying they do. The risk is a heavy landing that can rip the undercarriage away causing the whole aircraft to tip cialis 10mg over
Outgoing Pilot, Flt Lt Luke Huntley told BFBS Forces’ News: “It is quite scary, yeah. The first time when you’re about 15-feet off the ground and the dust surrounds you and you can’t see anything. It’s quite a shock.”
Andrews added: “You’re so close to the ground, you’re just concentrating as hard as you can. I think it’s one of the most stressful parts of flight ’cause you’ve got to get it right.”
Lastly comes the most testing challenge of all, a desert landing at night.
Only then are the aircrews declared mission ready; done and truly dusted.