In preparation for the arrival of new pilots to the squadron, the aircrews of the “First Fighter” Squadron practiced landing their jets from the back seat. The new pilots will undergo a conversion training period in order to become accustomed to flying the “Barak” (F-16C/D) accompanied by senior pilots from the squadron

Illy Peeri

Throughout the past week, the “First Fighter” Squadron’s pilots participated in instructor training. They didn’t simulate aerial combat or threatened flight, but flying their aircraft from the WSOs seat.

New pilots who have just completed their Advanced Operational Training Course will soon arrive at the squadron and begin their conversion training period in which they will slowly become accustomed to flying a new aircraft, all while being accompanied by experienced pilots from the back seat. In order for the senior accompanying pilots to gain confidence in their ability to pilot the aircraft from the back seat, the squadron holds a number of exercises in which the pilots study the differences between the seats in the cockpit and the difficulties of flying from the backseat. “Conversion pilots who arrive have all of the required theoretical knowledge – they have trained in ‘Barak’ (F-16C/D) simulators and underwent instructions and tests, but they have yet to have physically experienced flying the jet”, explained Maj. A’, Deputy Commander of the “First Fighter” Squadron. “In the conversion flights, we teach them how to take off and land. They fly the jet from the pilot’s seat and we sit behind them”.

Accompanied Flier

A two-seater “Barak” (F-16C/D) from the “Scorpion” Squadron that the pilots from the “First Fighter” Squadron trained on | Photography: Adi Abu

The Mission: Landing
Upon arriving at the squadron, the young pilots study the aircraft in a number of stages, the first being flying alongside a seasoned pilot. During the sortie, the conversion pilots experience flight in an operational aircraft for the first time. “Conversion pilots have little aerial experience, so we rehearse flight according to their limitations, without a doubt a complex mission”, shared Capt. Yotam, an accompanying pilot from the squadron. “One of the most significant parts of the exercise is flying like a young pilot, meaning under their limitations”. 

In addition, the exercise prepares accompanying pilots for any scenario, including the possibility of taking control of the jet if necessary. In order to perform a successful landing, the pilot must make sure that the aircraft meets certain conditions such as speed, angle and position on the runway and simultaneously operate a number of different elements while making correct decisions. “The new pilots are familiar with the elements necessary for landing, but we are there to make sure that they utilize them”, said Capt. Yotam. “In the first sorties on the jet, it is difficult to respond to all of the data and information that flood the pilot, so in case they have to re-do the landing, we will assist them and prevent dangerous situations. There is a saying that in the first year of piloting F-16 jet, the main mission is landing”.

Accompanied Flier

A two-seater “Barak” (F-16C/D) from the “Scorpion” Squadron that the pilots from the “First Fighter” Squadron trained on | Photography: Adi Abu

Never Alone
The pilots chosen to accompany the new pilots all have certain instructional backgrounds, in addition to the squadron command – the deputies and squadron commander. Their instructional background is of great importance in the conversion period as the training is completely based on flying capability and high versatility. “Before the exercise, we studied the young pilots’ limitations and shared techniques for backseat landing, in which your field of vision is obscured and you must mainly rely on what you see from the sides”, shared Capt. Yotam. “In addition, during the exercise we sat down with experienced senior pilots who flew the jets from the front seat as part of their own exercise and completed the flight by landing from the back. The experienced pilots could identify problematic aspects of our landing that are difficult for us to identify and they helped us debrief and improve for the next times”.

The accompanying pilots’ goal is ultimately to provide the young pilots with the ultimate flight experience. They must help them familiarize themselves with the jet, so they are able to succeed in their first solo. “Conversion solo flights are characterized by environmental elements new to the young pilots and that may make the flight difficult for them such as the new base, the strength of the engine and the excitement”, concluded Maj. A’. “We are there exactly for that. Not just to test, but to assist and calm, so they know they aren’t alone”. 

Accompanied Flier

A two-seater “Barak” (F-16C/D) from the “Scorpion” Squadron that the pilots from the “First Fighter” Squadron trained on | Photography: Adi Abu