ROC military pilots recount US flight training experiences

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Dec 15, 2013 - Page 3

Army officers on Friday shared their happy and bitter memories of undergoing training in the US to learn how to fly and maintain Taiwan’s newly acquired AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

“To be honest, it is really not easy to fly an Apache helicopter, and it requires a lot of time and effort,” said Lieutenant Colonel Yu Chih-lung (郁智隆), who headed the group of Taiwanese military pilots who were trained in the US.

On Friday, a ceremony was held at an Army Aviation Special Forces base in Greater Tainan to officially mark the delivery of the first batch of six US-made Apache helicopters.

One of the most difficult parts of learning to fly an Apache was getting used to wearing a special pilot helmet that has a display sighting system, which is used to track targets, Yu said.

The design includes a display in front of one of the pilot’s eyes.

In the beginning, it was very challenging to fly the helicopter with that device in front of his eye, Yu said, adding that several trainees had headaches due to parallax, a condition where an object appears as if it is positioned differently when looked at from different angles.

However, after practicing for a couple of months, the pilots were able to adapt to the helmet-mounted display sighting system, said Yu, who was an OH-58D reconnaissance helicopter pilot before being transferred to fly the Apache chopper.

Another officer who went to the US for training was Major Chen Lung-chien (陳龍謙), who fell in love with an American woman during his year there.

Chen said they met at a Taiwanese restaurant last year, where the woman was working. She later came to Taiwan with him following his training.

He said they plan to get married next year.

The six helicopters, which arrived in Taiwan early last month, are part of a 30-helicopter package purchased by Taiwan at a cost of more than US$2 billion.

The procurement of the aircraft will greatly improve the Taiwan military’s mobility and firepower, the Ministry of National Defense said.

The model E is the latest in the Apache attack helicopter series.