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Army helicopter pilots learn how to 'Say It Right'

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation on Sept. 17 conducted a special showing of the popular safety seminar "Say It Right" for Army pilots just back from Iraq. Veteran presenter Mark Grady led the seminar, which was donated by the foundation to help support U.S. troops.

The Air Safety Foundation arranged the seminar for about 100 helicopter pilots of the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bragg, N.C. Squadron pilots chose the "Say It Right" seminar on proper radio communications techniques to help ease their transition back to flight operations in the states.

"Our pilots are too good to be perceived as unprofessional on the radio," said Chief Warrant Officer John MacElroy. "But they've been flying for nearly a year in a country where there is very little aviation infrastructure, and where the air traffic control system isn't as complex and demanding as in the United States."

"This ASF seminar is a big help for our returning pilots in reinforcing FAA radio communication procedures," he added.

MacElroy said that men and women making up the 1st Squadron aviation team had been flying for nearly a year in conditions that would horrify most any U.S. civilian pilot. Operations were frequently over trackless desert terrain in Iraq, often at night under "lights out" conditions and in poor visibility.

"You had to keep an eye on the environment," added squadron commander Lt. Col. Michael D. Pyott. "You could instantly find yourself at low altitude in blowing dust with very limited visibility, while 20 miles away it could be severe clear. In our operations, five miles visibility was comparable to three miles in the United States because there is so little contrast, so few visual references in the desert."

"We flew in those conditions all the time, although night vision goggles helped considerably," he said. "But when you start getting into weapons firing, in some of the more aggressive nose-low attitudes, it can be, well, challenging."

(Listen to a chilling 56-second description by Pyott on the flight conditions faced by the pilots.)

"Say It Right" was one of two Air Safety Foundation premier live seminars for 2006 and drew record crowds of pilots at each showing. The current seminar now touring is " FARs: What Every Pilot Should Know."

September 17, 2007

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