Cley helicopter crash: How US airmen train to be ‘the best of the best in the sky’
The Pave Hawk HH-60 helicopter which crashed in Cley, killing four airmen, was on a training flight. Here, a US airman gives an insight into how pilots train to be ‘the best of the best in the sky’.
In November, crews from 56th Rescue Squadron at RAF Lakenheath spent a week at RAF Leeming, preparing for electronic warfare training missions over the RAF Spadeadam test range.
The training was designed to give aircrews the opportunity to fly missions and use tactics to engage potential electronic warfare threats.
Reflecting on the training, Captain Sky Jensen, 56th RQS weapons and tactics officer, said: “This is my first time in four-and-a-half years of flying helicopters that I have had to chance to do this training.
“It’s not unheard-of, but oh man, it’s super rare for us.”
Captain Jensen said the most exciting part of the training was watching the junior members of the team learn.
Major Daran Gaus praised the work of the support staff from 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron that made the 56th RQS mission a success.
“We [pilots] came up here to fight electronic warfare threats, but that doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” he said.
“Our maintainers were tireless in their efforts to provide us aircraft every day.”
Along with 748th AMXS Airmen, 56th RQS support, intelligence and aircrew flight equipment personnel all contributed to the exercise.
“Stuff like this would not be possible without the behind-the-scenes work our [56th RQS] support provides,” added Major Gaus.
Staff Sgt Robert Neal, 56th RQS aircrew flight equipment technician, said the behind-the-scenes jobs were vital.
“For example, I provide fully-functional, serviceable gear for the pilots and aircrew members by providing helmets, survival vests, gunner’s belts, night-vision goggles or any other equipment they would need to train or fly,” said Neal.
“Without gear, they can’t fly, so this job keeps flying operations up from an aircrew standpoint.”
According to Airmen throughout the 56th RQS, the electronic warfare training proved to enhance the abilities of all the personnel involved.
Captain Jensen added: “The training has better prepared the 56th RQS to maintain their ability to deploy worldwide, and they are prepared to face any future conflicts.”