Cobra pilots gear up for night systems instructor training
By Lance Cpl. Andrea Cleopatra Dickerson
| Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point | May 16, 2013
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Four AH-1W Super Cobra pilots with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467 began a four-day training evolution Monday at Cherry Point to earn the night system instructor training designation.
The NSI designation is one of the highest levels of qualifications an aviator can earn, with the Weapons and Tactics Instructor being the only other qualification of such high caliber, said Capt. Joseph D. Quirk, the aviation safety officer of HMLA-467.
“The squadron benefits from this training because we will have multiple pilots with these different qualifications, allowing us to have several options to choose from to get our pilots trained during periods of heavy scheduling,” he said.
During the course of training, the pilots’ objective is to become experts in the night environment. They study and familiarize themselves with night vision equipment, infrared systems and environmental considerations including light levels, terrain and thermal factors. Then they put what they have learned to the test in the field.
While engaged in the flight portion of the training, the Cobra pilots provided close air support through development and execution of thorough plans while coordinating with unmanned aerial systems and other fixed-wing assets to complete their mission.
Once pilots complete the course, they gain credibility within their military occupational specialty that qualifies them to instruct new pilots who fly after dusk with the help of night vision goggles.
Because they are hand-picked by a selection board to go through the course, pilots from the squadron work hard to stay competitive and qualified, Quirk said.
Newcomer Capt. James Lestrange, a Super Cobra pilot who joined the Marine Corps with the dream of becoming a pilot, said he is already setting his sights on the course.
“This gives me something to look forward to,” he said. “The course is not easy, but everyone wants to go through it. The best part about my job is the fact that not everybody can do it. You have to work hard and really want to do this.”