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TH-67 Creek

The Army's TH-67 New Training Helicopter (NTH) is a Bell Model 206B JetRanger III built by Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. Its function is to replace existing Hueys being used for training Initial Entry Rotary Wing students. The TH-67 Creek is a state-of-the-art helicopter used for initial entry rotary wing training. It replaced the aging UH-1H, which had been the Army's interim trainer since the 1988 retirement of the TH-55 Osage. In the tactical portion of pilot training, the OH-58 Kiowa is still the helicopter used. But for initial entry rotary wing flight instruction, the TH-67 is the aircraft of choice for a new generation of Army aviators.

For a new Aviation Lieutenant, flight school means completing Aviation Officer Basic Course (AVOBC) Phase I, AVOBC Phase II (Initial Entry Rotary Wing (IERW) Qualification), AVOBC Phase III, and an Advanced Aircraft Qualification Course (AQC). Every 2 weeks, an IERW class starts. This class is a mixture of WO1s and Lieutenants. The first 20 weeks of training involve the basics of helicopter flight and instruments in the TH-67. At the end of primary flight and instruments, most officers will go into Basic Combat Skills (BCS) and Night Vision Goggles (NVG) in the OH-58C. Depending on sitting heigth, taller officers may be required to go through the UH-1H BCS and NVG track.

The New Training Helicopter was a significant test conducted in 1992 at Fort Rucker by the TRADOC Test and Experimentation Command (TEXCOM) Aviation Test Directorate. The purpose of the NTH test was to assess the training effectiveness of five candidate commercial helicopters under consideration by the Army for future pilot training as compared to the UH-1 version. Distinguishing between critical and non-critical requirements and relaxing non-critical requirements simplified an Army aircraft procurement. After its analysis of comments received from competitors, the Army reduced several requirements including: airspeed from 100 to 90 knots; hover capacity from 4,000 feet density to 2,300 feet density; fuel capacity from 3-1/2 hours to 2-1/2 hours; and airframe crash-worthy limits from 26-feet-per-second to a limit open to discussion based on contractor data. The reductions allowed more contractors to compete with proven, existing helicopters. In fact, one contractor avoided elimination when the airspeed requirement was lowered from 100 to 90 knots.

In March 1993, the US Army ordered the TH-67 Creek version as its new training helicopter to succeed the Bell UH-1. Based on the performance of the U.S. Navy's TH-57, the U.S. Army is currently purchasing the Bell TH-67. Providing a highly reliable, student/instructor-friendly, low-cost platform for primary flight training, it is surpassing all readiness goals established by the U.S. Army. The TH-67 boasts a combination of high training utility and safety with the most extensive features of any training helicopter in the world. Unique to the TH-67 is its advanced cockpit display system installed for the back seat student. Other features include energy attenuating seats, full IMC/VMC instrumentation and heavy-duty skid shoes for touchdown autorotation training.

The Creek is special because it was bought "off the shelf" rather than being designed to a military specification. The New Training Helicopter was purchased as a Non-Developmental Item with only three modifications. This was done to reduce pilot training costs while continuing to meet the same training objectives. The TH-67 Creek will require approximately one-third the operating and support cost of the Huey. The focus is to provide the best training at the lowest price. The TH-67 is able to do that by cutting operating and maintenance costs in half. The Army expected to save $27 million annually and $540 million over the 20-year expected life cycle of the aircraft. Purchasing the TH-67 was like buying a new car with a two-year warranty. When the Army builds a helicopter to military specifications there is no recourse on design deficiencies because it is a government design. With a commercial buy the Army is covered by the same warranty as private customers. Because the TH-67 is maintained to Federal Aviation Administration standards it's a resalable aircraft. When the Army decides to replace the TH-67, it can be resold on the commercial market, another first for Army aviation.

The aircraft consists of the forward section, intermediate section, and tailboom section. The forward section consists of two bulkheads connected by two box beams with an aerodynamic profile supported primarily with aluminum honeycomb construction. The forward section begins at the nose and ends at the aft crosstube. This comprises the crew compartment and the observer station. The intermediate section is of semimonocoque construction [semimonocoque means that the aircraft skin provides some of the structural strenght] beginning aft of the aft cross tube and ending at the attaching point of the tailboom section. The tailboom section is of -fully monocoque construction, beginning at the aft end of the intermediate station. The horizontal stabilizer--maintains a desirable aircraft attitude throughout the airspeed range. The metal strip installed at its' lead-ing edge maintains autorotational stability. The vertical fin is installed with it's leading edge 5½ degrees right of center thus reducing tail rotor thrust requirements in forward flight. The TH-67 tail rotor is completely "off-loaded" between 100-110 KTAS.

Integrating the TH-67 into the training fleet created a steep learning curve for the trainers. Even though Fort Rucker's instructors are among the world's most experienced, most of their flight time had been in the durable and very forgiving UH-1H. The TH-67, on the other hand, is much more responsive to control input and requires more finesse. Since the Army switched to the TH-67, student grades have gone up slightly and the course failure rate has been cut in half.

Like other military helicopters, the UH-1 is designed for a go-to-war mission. It's not necessarily built for comfort or ease of handling. In contrast, the TH-67 is smaller, sleeker and air-conditioned, which helps students feel more comfortable in it, said Bonham. Not only is it less intimidating, but it's much quieter. That in itself puts the student in a better learning environment.

To enhance training, a cockpit display system is embedded in the back of the right front seat to provide the second student a full view of the primary flight and navigation instruments. It's a helpful tool at the beginning of the cours. The display system is a good training tool, and is mainly used as a cross reference.

The Frasca International, Inc. TH-67 Helicopter Flight Simulator cockpit is modeled after that of the aircraft with dual flight controls, actual aircraft flight instruments and system indicators. The avionics equipment is capable of use in training instrument flight rules (IFR) operations. A variety of environmental conditions, including wind speed and direction, turbulence, visibility, cloud ceiling, and day/dusk/night illumination can be simulated. Various engine, electrical, hydraulic and mechanical failures can also be simulated. The simulator provides helicopter sound cues, including engine, transmission, main rotor, and wind noise, plus warning tones. The out-the-window view is projected onto a screen in front of the cockpit. The visual field, as currently configured, is 33 degrees horizontal by 25 degrees vertical. All locations in the visual database (e.g., airfield, helipad, taxi lanes), are accurately modeled and internally consistent in terms of latitude, longitude, and magnetic compass orientation.

In May 1996 Taiwan requested the purchase of 30 TH-67 training helicopters, 30 sets of AN/AVS-6 (V)1 night vision goggles and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost was $53 million. Taiwan used these helicopters for pilot training and as replacements for older and non-supportable UH-1H helicopters that are difficult to maintain and expensive to operate.

In October 1996 UNC Aviation Services, Incorporated, Annapolis, Maryland, was awarded $18,652,203 (base year) of a (cumulative total of $101,622,813 includes 4 option years, if exercised) firm fixed price contract for rotary wing flight training services. The contractor conducts initial entry rotary wing flight training services -- consisting of flight academics, flight simulator training, and actual aircraft flight training -- in the TH- 67 aircraft; and provides all management, administration, supervision, labor, equipment, tools, materials, and other items of services necessary to perform the work, except what is specified in the contract as government furnished property and services. Work is performed at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

While developing aircraft maintenance plans in 2000 for a 25 percent student increase, analysis showed that when comparing lifecycle maintenance costs of the OH-58A/C versus the TH-67, procuring additional TH-67s would be more cost effective. Overall, $3.8 million could be saved over the 2 years the original plan called for use of OH-58A/Cs.

After more than a dozen years, Fort Rucker’s instructor-pilots, students and maintenance crews reached an Army Aviation milestone 16 January 2007 — the one millionth flight hour in the TH-67 Creek training helicopter. The one millionth hour is a remarkable example of combining bureaucracy, leadership and industry to train more than 15,000 aviators, and the TH-67 Creek has allowed and enabled Soldiers to become Army Aviators in safe and reliable ways.

Over time some modifications have been made to the TH-67 such as removing the rear seat flight instrument panel and adding air conditioning. The aircraftis resilient and handled well in repeated emergency-procedures training as well as actual, random emergencies. Since the Army acquired the TH-67 Creek, student grades have improved, the course failure rate has been cut in half, and the helicopter has provided a highly reliable student- and instructor-friendly, low-cost airframe for nearly 15,000 future Army Aviators. The TH-67 Creek was selected to improve training and reduce costs to American taxpayers by $29 million annually and more than a half billion dollars over the lifetime of the program. Lear Siegler Services, Inc. provides the flight training contract and Army Fleet Support furnishes maintenance support.

The traditional initial entry rotary-wing flight training model is 32 weeks and consists of four phases:

  1. First phase consists of two weeks of preflight instruction, providing students with knowledge of basic flight control relationships, aerodynamics, weather and start-up procedures.
  2. Second phase, consisting of ten weeks and 60 flight hours in the TH-67 Creek training helicopter, is the primary phase. In this phase, students learn the basic fundamentals of flight, make their first solo flights, and learn to perform approaches and basic stagefield maneuvers. Students then progress to more complex emergency procedure training, slopes and confined area operations.
  3. Third phase is eight weeks of instrument training, including 30 hours in the flight simulator on the main post and 20 hours in the TH-67. The student progresses from basic instrument procedures to navigation on federal airways using FAA en route controlling agencies. Upon successful completion of this phase, the students are instrument qualified and receive a helicopter instrument rating upon graduation.
  4. Fourth phase of training is the combat skills and dual track phase. It is combat-mission oriented and trains the student pilot in the OH-58 A/C as an aeroscout helicopter pilot. The 1-212th Aviation Battalion teaches both tracks that include extensive night vision goggles training and tactical night operations.
A total of 183 aircraft were procured. A mix of aircraft configured to support Visual Flight Rules (VFR), Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Basic War fighting Skills (BWS) training are used. The VFR version is ideal for early stages of flight school because it is lighter, simpler, and less sensitive to the harsher flight maneuvering generated during the students' primary training. The IFR is equipped for the more advanced instrument phase and is more complex and heavier, but does not undergo the harsher primary flight maneuvering generated in earlier training phases. An enhanced configuration of the VFR is a third design which offers a training environment for the acquisition of basic navigation/night/night vision goggles skills. All versions of the aircraft are designed to provide safe, effective and economical in-flight training when used to demonstrate and practice basic helicopter pilot skills.

Training in the TH-67 is far more than stick wiggling. It is where instructors first touch the soul of a warrior — an intangible thrust inside the being of all combat aviators.

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