ABOARD THE USS MAKIN ISLAND (LHD 8) --
A CH-46E “Sea Knight” and CH-53E “Super Stallion” from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced) took to the sky and crossed the San Diego coastal waters as crews conducted takeoffs and landings aboard the USS Makin Island Jan. 28.
The flight was part of training for their deployment with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in May.
A UH-1N “Huey” and an AH-1W “Cobra” from other squadrons also performed more than six landings and takeoffs each.
“The more practice we have ensures proficiency so we can land on the ship safely,” said Maj. Jeffrey Palmer, the executive officer of HMM-165, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and a CH-46E pilot. “You only have one spot to land on and there are a lot of aircraft operating in the same airspace.”
The landings are difficult because the ship is moving forward, explained Capt. Justin Pitcock, a CH-46E pilot with HMM-165. It’s also difficult because the wind on the ship’s deck is moving at a different speed than on the flight line.
The crews flew in a takeoff and landing cycle beginning with the Huey and ending with the Super Stallion. The helicopters flew in a 300-foot circle above the Makin Island for all takeoffs and landings.
Each flight required the crew chiefs in the back of the aircraft to communicate information to the pilots.
“On a flight like this, the guys in the back have a pretty important job,” said Pitcock. “They’re basically backing us up. We need them to make sure we don’t run into anything and to line us up when landing.”
After completing several landings, the crews made their way back to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar’s flight line to switch out crews.
“It was a good day,” said Pitcock. “You can’t ask for a better day than that.”
The weather was nice and the cycle was efficient enough for everyone to get training out of it, explained Palmer.
The pilots prepared for the ship flights by practicing landings on a mock pad at the flight line. Each pilot needs to make five day landings and five night landings to qualify for the deployment.
Through many training flights, the pilots and crew of HMM-165 ensured that they are preapared for whatever the deployment will require of them and their helicopters.