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U.S. Air Force advises Honduran Air Force in initial radar altimeter installation

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lesley Waters
  • 615th Contingency Response Wing public affairs office
The U.S. and Honduran Air Forces scored a win-win victory between the two partner nations with the installation of the first of five radar altimeters in a Honduran helicopter Feb. 6.

Airmen from the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, 615th Contingency Response Wing, Calif., and Inter-American Air Forces Academy, 318th Training Squadron, Lackland AFB, Texas, advised the Honduran Air Force in installing the radar altimeter as part of a month-long Building Partner Capacity mission in Honduras. The BPC mission is designed to promote regional stability by fostering key relationships and enhancing partner nation capabilities.

"The radar altimeters give the FAH an added capability that improves night flying operations on night vision goggles," said Senior Master Sgt. Jason Hood, 571st MSAS helicopter crew chief and air advisor. "This will help the pilots with better situational awareness and increased safety."

The RAD ALT is a digital readout of aircraft altitude Above Ground Level. It also incorporates a discrete warning indicator for a pre-selected decision height. This discrete warning indicator lets the pilot know when the aircraft drops below the selected altitude. This is a necessary function when aircrews are operating under increased stressors associated with NVG during nighttime operations.

As with most processes, installing the altimeter required certain adjustments. The FAH had to adjust the indicator panel in order to install the indicator. The wiring already in the aircraft had to be adjusted since it was configured for an analog system, instead of a digital system. The mounting of the transmitter-receiver required the manufacturing of a mounting plate for the original location. The structures section built mounting plates for the transmitter-receiver and relocated the indicator position in order to give the co-pilot better visibility. The FAH also installed a guarded switch, in order to calibrate the system to zero feet and for future calibration maintenance.

"We worked as a team," said Tech. Sgt. Ruben Sigala, IAAFA instructor. "All suggestions were heard and analyzed. At the end, we all agreed installing the RAD ALT in the manner they did was the best."

MSAS air advisors said it would take approximately five days to complete the installation which included possible damaged wiring, defective equipment or unclear installation manual instructions. The first day they worked about 15 hours and had it physically installed.

"They were very motivated to get the equipment installed and knew it would increase their capabilities significantly," said Hood. "They were extremely excited to have the system installed and see how well it worked."

The second day they tried to calibrate the system to zero since it was reading nine feet. They read the instructions but there was confusion. Since it was Saturday, they had to wait until Monday to call the manufacturer.

With the confusion cleared up Monday morning, the FAH and U.S. Airmen quickly reset the altimeter to zero and did a complete system check. With the check complete, the helicopter aircrew took the RAD ALT on its maiden flight with no issues.

Sigala said he was impressed with the FAH's professionalism and how quickly they were able to install the altimeter, especially with the limited resources available to them.

"Usually it takes a couple of tries, because you find out that you didn't think of everything," said Sigala. "But we, the air advisors and FAH, worked together and thought of everything that could happen and what would be best for the aircrew."

The following day, the air advisors presented a Dremel 4000 variable speed rotary tool to the FAH's maintainers to use for installation of the other four radar altimeters and whatever future projects. The Dremel is a high-speed, low torque tool. Following the presentation, FAH inspector Sub-official Master 2nd Class Enrique Hernandez Sanchez thanked the U.S. Air Force for its friendship and contributions.

"This has been a great experience having the U.S. Air Force here," said Hernandez. "We have been able to get to know each other more because of how much time we are working together. The things we have learned and shared between our two air forces are invaluable."