Several members of the Program Executive Office for Aviation were recognized at this year’s Army Aviation Association of America Joseph P. Cribbins symposium Nov. 16 at the Von Braun Center.
The Apache New Equipment Training received the Army Aviation Materiel Readiness Award for a Contribution by an Industry Team, while Kevin Belden received the award for a Contribution by an Individual.
The Training Branch within the Apache Project Office built and staffed the NET Team in house to train aviators and maintainers during AH-64E fielding. Whether a new pilot or a seasoned one, operating the AH-64 V6 requires extensive mission equipment and flight training. To help operators become fully prepared to operate Apache V6, the team provided critical instruction to ensure operators can safely operate and take full advantage of the aircraft’s many upgrades.
The NET team, comprised of Apache standardization instructor pilots, maintenance test pilot examiners, and senior noncommissioned officers, is the most experienced group of Apache instructors available to the Army. The team trained 222 Army aviators on the AH-64E and provided Aircrew Training Program flight training support for four Army units that were critically short of instructor pilots. The team uses a combination of classroom training, Longbow Crew Trainer sessions and training flights to familiarize pilots with the upgraded version of the aircraft, making existing AH-64E version 4 or earlier qualified pilots into to a fully qualified V6 pilot.
During the year, the team flew approximately 1,890 flight hours in direct support of AH-64E qualification training for the Army. They also ferried about 49 Apache helicopters from Mesa, Arizona, to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Fort Drum, New York, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and eight Apache helicopters for foreign military customers from Mesa to the seaport in Houston, Texas, for overseas shipment. Further, they assisted the fielding of the AH-64E to three units at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This team represents the very best of professionalism, innovation, and the ability to continually adapt to meet every mission no matter the circumstances,” Col. Jay Maher, Apache project manager, said. “I am very proud of their accomplishments, especially given the challenges they faced this past year during the ongoing COVID pandemic.”
Belden, a DigiFlight task lead for the AH-64 Operator New Equipment Training team, oversaw the qualification of 1,175 Army and allied nation aviators in the AH-64E. From October 2020 to August 2021, during the height of the COVID worldwide pandemic, he coordinated, orchestrated and managed the training of 202 aviators in the AH-64E at three separate combat aviation brigades. He managed the training of 198 aviators in the AH-64E V4.1 software upgrade and 349 aviators in the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, while most of the Army was locked down due to the pandemic.
Belden drafted the first AH-64E Operator and Maintenance Test Pilot -64D to -64E Qualification Program of Instruction and Course Management Plans for the Version 6 upgrade. He also prepared the Operator and Maintenance Test Pilot Training Support Plan for the AH-64E Version 6 New Equipment Training. He was the primary coordinator in the oversight and development of the Army and United Kingdom AH-64E Version 6 training, including academics, course questions, exams, and simulation scenarios.