|The U.S. Navy wants to replace its TH-57 Sea Rangers, shown on the runway at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Florida, in 2014, with IFR-certificated aircraft that are part of an Advanced Helicopter Training System. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy / Petty Officer 1st Class Karlton Rebenstorf
The U.S. Navy expects to issue a request for proposals by the year’s end to provide an Advanced Helicopter Training System to replace its TH-57- based program.
The Navy wants the new program to include helicopters certificated by the FAA for single-pilot, instrument-flight-rules operations, according to its Jan. 28 “sources sought” solicitation (No. N00019-16-R-0029). That notice does not specify the number of engines that power each helicopter and leaves open the possibility of using a mix of aircraft certified for IFR and those limited to visual-flight-rules operations.
The service plans to hold an Industry Day and site visit before April 1 for interested vendors to observe facilities and activities at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Florida. Whiting Field is the primary site for advanced training of rotary-wing aviators for the Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, including Bell Boeing V-22 pilots.
The Naval Air Systems Command said it “is seeking industry input for the most efficient and economical approach for training” rotary-wing students. The command added that it intends to acquire the Advanced Helicopter Training System through competitive bidding for the service’s Chief of Naval Aviation and Training.
The Navy described the “sources sought” notice as a market research tool that it will use to identify “potential and eligible firms, of all sizes, prior to determining the method of acquisition and issuance of a solicitation.”
Under the concept described in the notice, training flights will originate and terminate at Whiting Field, in the Florida Panhandle near Pensacola. Classroom and simulator training will be conducted within a 10-mi radius of Whiting Field.
Navy rotary-wing training now relies on the Bell Helicopter TH-57, which is obsolescent and becoming difficult to support.
The Navy said the new helicopter training program would have to provide the ground instruction for rotary-wing student naval aviators that would cover aircraft-specific systems training and the use of flight simulation training devices such as full-flight simulators, flight training devices and aviation training devices.
Any training devices included in a contractor’s bid would have to comply with current FAA certification standards and guidelines. The new training regime would continue the current practice of having all flight training and instruction done by active-duty officers, not civilian contractors.
In addition to the general FAA requirements, the notice said, “it is desired that the simulators allow linked formation flight training as well as simulated operations” to and from Navy ships.
The new program would support both helicopter and tiltrotor training. The Navy currently trains about 500 rotary-wing students a year, with surges to 600 a year. The average student load for tiltrotor student pilots today is 90, with a surge capacity to 100. In addition to the flight students, 60 to 80 instructors go through Navy instructor training each year.
The Navy specified in the notice that helicopters provided under the new program “must be capable of performing full auto-rotations to the ground repeatedly, without any required post-maneuver, post-flight auto-rotation specific inspections.”
The size of the helicopter fleet provided under an Advanced Helicopter Training System contract would have to be sufficient to support the daily flight schedule at Whiting Field. That today includes 220 to 260 single-training flights within a 16- to 18-hr window (0800 to 2400). A single-training flight is about 1.8 hr long.