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TH-1H to modernize helicopter training for service branches

The Vietnam-era UH-1H helicopters were converted into brand new TH-1H helicopters, seen here in action. The UH-1Hs are stripped down,cleaned and then built back up with brand new structural and dynamic parts, an upgraded engine and a glass cockpit that includes state of the art avionics. Courtesy photo

The Vietnam-era UH-1H helicopters were converted into brand new TH-1H helicopters, seen here in action. The UH-1Hs are stripped down,cleaned and then built back up with brand new structural and dynamic parts, an upgraded engine and a glass cockpit that includes state of the art avionics. Courtesy photo

Center front, Paulette Lemon, 573rd ACSS squadron leader, John Adams, 580th ACSC group director and Scott Vandersall, 580th ACSC engineeering division chief and members of the IPT government and contractor team watch as Mr. Adams signs the airworthiness certificate for the TH-1H helicopter trainer. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Center front, Paulette Lemon, 573rd ACSS squadron leader, John Adams, 580th ACSC group director and Scott Vandersall, 580th ACSC engineeering division chief and members of the IPT government and contractor team watch as Mr. Adams signs the airworthiness certificate for the TH-1H helicopter trainer. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Robins Air Force Base, GA -- An aged UH-1H helicopter whose parts were becoming scarce spurred the Air Force to change its helicopter training mechanism to the TH-1H. 

The TH-1H helicopter trainer combines the look of the UH-1H, commonly known as the Huey, with a modern cockpit that brings pilots' training up to date.

In December 2004, modification of the existing UH-1H into the TH-1H configuration began. Lockheed Martin produced the first TH-1H in July 2005, and the trainer immediately underwent tests.

Upon clearing tests, two TH-1Hs were released to the Air Education and Training Command in May.

Lisa Jackson, TH-1H program manager in the 573rd Aircraft Sustainment Squadron at Robins, said the transfer should be smooth.

Ms. Jackson said the TH-1H will better prepare student pilots for platforms they'll use in their careers.

"It basically offers a seamless transition from the aircraft to what the pilots will be flying in their careers, the CB-22 and any other helicopters out there, like the H-60," she said.

Alfred Woods, a program management support contractor in the 573rd ACSS, said the TH-1H's glass cockpit lines it up with the current platforms the Air Force operates today and prepares student pilots for the future.

As Huey parts become harder to come by, Mr. Woods said moving to a modernized training platform was a necessary action to take.

"We were fortunate to modernize an airplane with up-to-date parts so parts can be available to provide more airframe time for the students to bring about an operational environment where they can do what they're paid to do," he said.

Mr. Woods said the move was cost efficient.

"AETC made a wise decision to take an old platform like this Huey and basically run it through a shop and upgrade it," he said. "When this airplane goes back into the shop, they strip everything out and it comes out as a TH-1H. By doing that, we were able to produce an aircraft at about $2.5 million a copy. If we were buying a new helicopter, we'd pay in excess of $15 million to $20 million a copy."

Mr. Woods said updating the helicopter trainer was a good move.

"This has been a very smart move for AETC and it has also been a giant move for the (Warner Robins Air Logistics Center)," he said. "The only other aircraft we've actually taken and rebuilt twice is this airplane and the C-130. The C-130 has proven to be a war horse in the operational environment. The Huey is run along those same lines."

Paulette Lemons, 573rd ACSS director, said the Air Force expects to receive 24 TH-1Hs in total by Fiscal 2011.

Ms. Lemons said Robins will provide program management and technical support for the TH-1H, while Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas will maintain the helicopter trainer.

"We are indeed happy to provide this support and savings to AETC in support of their training mission," she said.

A TH-1H simulator will be placed at Fort Rucker, Ala., to aid with training needs in early 2009, Ms. Lemons said.