PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- In a culmination of a busy month of flying, both here and in the high desert of Colorado, an all-Marine crew took the Corps' newest light/attack helicopters through the 1,000-hour mark May 7.
Flying a functional check of the Stability and Control Augmentation Software in preparation for a test of the UH-1Y's Automatic Flight Control System, the crew of Maj. Pat Lindauer, Maj. Dean Putnam and crew chief Sgt. Aaron Jameson rolled the program into four digits to score the latest achievement for the H-1 upgrades program.
Of five test aircraft, two (AH-1Z-1 and UH-1Y-1) are currently flying high-altitude tests in Alamosa, Colo., while the others continue to achieve test objectives here, according to program officials.
"Last month, Z-3 and Y-2 both exceeded 30 flight hours for the month, while Z-1 and Y-1 exceeded 20 flight hours," explained Robin H. Locksley, the Naval Air Systems Command's H-1 Upgrades Flight Test Team leader. "These availability rates (of flight test aircraft) are an excellent indicator of future performance, as the specification only calls for planned availability of 25 flight hours per month. During four of the last five months, the flight test team has exceeded the number of planned test events and is on glide-slope to exceed the planned events for May, as well."
Contributing to the overall achievement of the test team are the individual milestones accrued by each of the test aircraft.
"Y-2 recently reached the 100 flight hour mark," Locksley continued. "Z-3 is projected to reach the 100 hour mark this week. Z-1 will reach the 500-hour mark this week, if the weather is good in Alamosa."
After more than 12 hours of cross-country flying that included a fly-by of the Bell plant in Texas where they were built, as well as several overnight stops, AH-1Z-1 and UH-1Y-1 arrived on the high desert plateau of Western Colorado. They arrived to begin high altitude testing last week, according to Lt. Col. Nick Hall, government flight test director for NAVAIR's H-1 Integrated Test Team.
Testing where high density altitudes exist closer to ground level allows the team to test the aircraft's performance and handling close to the ground, but still where the air isn't as thick as at sea level, according to Hall.
"With the field elevation at 7,500 feet above sea level and favorable conditions (low winds and warmer temperatures)," Hall explained, "we can conduct hover performance both in and out of ground effect, low airspeed sensor characterization and low airspeed critical azimuth testing efficiently."
Active-duty Marines assigned to the test program here play a pivotal role in each of the milestones achieved by the integrated test team, which is comprised of both military and civilian members representing the Marine Corps, Navy, civil service, contractor support and Bell Helicopter.
"My maintenance Marines have done a phenomenal job," said Marine Capt. Jack Abate, H-1 Upgrades maintenance officer here. "Gunnery Sgt. Billy Potts, Staff Sgt. Gregory Shaw, Sgt. Michael Montanez and Cpl. Adam Phipps are currently supporting Z-1 in Alamosa, Colo., two crew chiefs, Staff Sgt. Eric Jazak and Sgt. Skylar Panter, flew in the back of Y-1 cross-country to Alamosa and will stay to support as a maintenance crew.
"I also have Marines here who are involved with all maintenance to get each bird on a flight schedule everyday," Abate explained. "In addition to these duties, they also perform reliability and maintainability tracking, publication validation, maintenance procedure validation and logistics verification. They are very interested and involved, and with both developmental and operational test responsibilities, they keep busy."
Remanufacture of the Marine Corps' UH-1N and AH-1W aircraft to the more than 80 percent identical UH-1Y and AH-1Z, is expected to save the Marine Corps approximately $3 billion in operating and support costs over the 30-year expected lifespan of the aircraft. The UH-1Y and AH-1Z share a common drive train, rotor head, tail boom, avionics, software and controls.
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