Priority1AirRescue (P1AR) offers training courses for helicopter SAR, air ambulance/HEMS, fire suppression and tactical operations, which are conducted in systematic and standardised approach to ensure mission success, says Brad Matheson, President and Director of Training for P1AR
The course delivery methods employed by P1AR ensure that the selected training curriculums are structured to meet the demanding requirements of commercial, para-public and military operators, while also maintaining a certain amount of flexibility in order to be specifically tailored for each customer and type of student learner. We wanted to have the ability to offer a full spectrum of training options and capabilities to our customers worldwide that are relevant to all major input standards, aircraft types, and mission mandates.
The comprehensive terminal learning objectives contained in the P1AR training curriculum meet and exceed the requirements set forth by the European Aviation Safety Agency, Transport Canada, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, and the latest version of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for operators looking to implement or expand Class D Human External Cargo operations. P1AR’s courseware, manuals, administrative material, governance, and programme implementation have passed the scrutiny of multiple audits through many international civil aviation authorities and federal agencies, which has further led many agencies to adopt and integrate the P1AR programme structure as part of their operations manuals. “When we commit to providing a programme for a customer, we are developing a close partnership. Whether training, operational administrative support or both, we become connected and truly are partners with our customers. Our duty is to provide the most comprehensive programme possible to make our customers as safe, capable and successful as possible,” said Mark Torrest, Executive Vice-President of operations.
P1AR looks at what gaps and opportunities there are in the SAR industry and how to further apply innovation to develop relevant training aids and tools for the SAR community in the future. For many years, pilots have had the ability to hone their skills in a synthetic environment, while the SAR/Tactical rear-crew communities were offered only a few training options without the use of synthetic training, and mostly conducted through the military. In early 2012, after almost a year of evaluation and trial, P1AR made the decision and commitment to revolutionise the approach to how rear crews were trained by creating the first commercially available Search and Rescue Tactical Training Academy (SART/TAC) dedicated to a full mission spectrum for the commercial, para-public, and military customer bases.
The P1AR SART/TAC facilities incorporate leading-edge technology classrooms, Virtual Hoist Simulators (VHS) in conjunction with a Hoist Procedural Towers (HPT) allowing student participants to truly learn at a controlled ‘crawl, walk, run’ pace at every application and correlating level of learning. The company currently has two offices in Vancouver, Canada and Valletta, Malta, and operates SART/TAC facilities located in Mesa, Arizona (US) and at the Aérocampus Aquitaine in Bordeaux (France). Each facility offers the chance for organisations to conduct Initial, Basic, Advanced and Recurrent Hoist Rescue, Aerial Use of Force/Gunnery, Fast Rope/Rappel, external load, air ambulance/HEMS, and even basic rear-crew type conversion training.
Training courses generally begin with the basic theory, taught in the ground school portion of the course. Upon successful completion of the ground school, students cycle through several training evolutions in the VHS and HPT to practise their compensate technical skill or relevant tactics. Training is progressive, and every student must pass the outlined objectives for each training module before continuing to progress to more advanced techniques, and throughout the training process, students are consistently supported and evaluated by P1AR instructors. This includes evaluations of a student’s inspection and physical use of the relevant SAR equipment required for a hoist rescue mission, and equally important, the student’s focus on human factors, demeanour, and overall performance when conducting a simulated hoist rescue or mission response. “While utilising a diverse array of the actual SAR/PEE equipment for the mission is an important part of our immersive training, the crew is the most important ‘equipment’ in the aircraft to achieve a safe and successful mission,” said Torres.
Rear-crew focused High Fidelity Simulation
The Synthetic training portion provides a context to which the SAR/Tactical mission knowledge learned in ground school is then applied, which provides an advantage for course participants before they conduct the actual flight training portion. Like other pilot flight simulators, there are no aircraft maintenance or fuel costs, no life limited parts to consider, no weather issues to contend with; just a directed focus on a consistent and controlled level of training to enhance their skills in a safe environment.
Student participants are immersed in a virtual world in which P1AR instructors can simulate a basic level inland/overland hoist mission profile to more advanced levels of operations like maritime vessel(s) and night/NVG SAR missions. The VHS is equipped with a hoist for participants to actually practise many of the initial concepts, from decision making and situational awareness, communications, conning and cable management, and is the only method to practise emergencies like cable entanglements and cable shearing.
For the tactical helicopter customer base, having the ability to offer initial to advanced aerial use of force and gunnery training utilising the Mag 58 (M240), GAU21, M3M or M134 Miniguns makes the SART/TAC facility a unique and valuable option for many militaries and government agencies. The gunnery simulation training includes accurate replication of true NATO ballistics modelling to ensure students learn accurate marksmanship while also mitigating ammunition expense and environmental contamination.
Doctors, nurses, and EMT/paramedics also perform their training flights in the VHS to perform landings in highways, parks or other confined areas. Another mission P1AR can provide a significant impact in our VHS for our customers is in performing night time unaided or NVG mission training. “For hoist missions conducted at night, it is truly revolutionary to our capability to effectively train hoist operators in normal and emergency procedures,” said Adam Davis, Manager of SART/TAC.
Located in P1AR’s SART/TAC facilities, the VHS is not the only unique tool used to create and refine SAR crews. The HPT also plays a critical role in a student’s training cycle. Crews take the knowledge gained in the VHS and apply a deeper tactile use with the HPT due to the incorporation of actual helicopter hoists and the ability to mirror the internal layout of most of the helicopters used for SAR/Tactical missions. “Because of diversity and size of our customer base employing a myriad of helicopter makes and models, we knew we couldn’t follow the standard approach to a training tower that is specific to one helicopter type,” said Adam Davis “Our training aids and equipment need to be as applicable to our customer’s aircraft and mission as possible. The design of a tower of this magnitude was quite involved, but after several revisions, we have remarkable training towers.”
Besides providing instructor led training, P1AR also extends appropriate customers the ability to ‘dry lease’ their training facilities. P1AR provides the support staff and equipment needed to ensure each dry lease customer is fully capable of conducting training, and once accepted, customers can utilise the VHS and HPT with their own instructors.
Currently, it’s important to note that almost all of the P1AR customers that conduct training in a SART/TAC facility continue their training with P1AR instructors – utilising the customer’s aircraft in a live environment allows P1AR instructors to work with students in their actual environment and aircraft.