by by Capt. Jamie Humphries 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
10/24/2011 - KABUL, Afghanistan -- The first of six new Cessna 208B's to be used for the Afghan Air Force undergraduate pilot training program arrived at Shindand Air Base recently.
With Afghan and coalition leadership in attendance, three new fixed wing follow-on trainers joined the recently arrived Cessna 182 Turbo aircraft as trainers that will be used to train newly selected AAF pilot candidates.
According to Shindand officials, the C-208B's will be used as the advanced trainers for Afghan undergraduate pilot training, initial qualification and upgrade training as well as operational light airlift.
The force will also welcome six MD-530 light helicopters that are scheduled for delivery later this year with instructor cadre for the UPT program staffed by coalition and Afghan instructors.
Officials in Shindand explained the significance the arrival of the C-208B's will play on development of the first-ever Afghan flight school.
"The arrival of the 208's is the next big step towards establishing Afghan UPT," said Capt. Jon Waller, 444th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron Instructor Pilot. "Having the advanced trainer on station will give us the opportunity to continue with initial qualification of the rated AAF members here at Shindand, with the goal of having a combined team of USAF and AAF instructors able to teach and fly with the first class in December."
Speaking on behalf of the AAF and directly addressing airmen, the AAF commander in Shindand reflected on another historic milestone for the base and mission in western Afghanistan.
It is great to see the new aircraft, and it is exciting to see Shindand Air Base finally becoming a functioning air base for pilot training, explained Maj. Gen. Abdul Baqi, AAF Commander in Shindand.
As the second largest base in Afghanistan, Shindand AB aims to be the "crown jewel" of the AAF explained officials as they look to make the base the centerpiece for all pilot training including a focus on maintenance, language and professional military education.
"Many of the students we have already received training years ago before the Taliban took over the country. The challenge is to bring them to current standards, along with training new pilots and crews," said Col. John J. Hokaj, Commander of the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group. "The final goal is that, in three years, the students we train now will be able to train new pilots and crews themselves, and be truly self-sufficient."
The first UPT class is slated to begin in December marking the first time in more than 30 years fixed-wing pilots will have been trained within Afghan boarders. Upon completion of UPT, students will be fully-rated instrument pilots.
The C-208B is an all weather capable aircraft, able to airlift a combination of eight passengers or approximately 4,000 pounds of cargo from austere airfields throughout Afghanistan.
Three additional C-208B's are scheduled to arrive in 10 days and will complete the fleet of 12 training aircraft which will be used for the AAF UPT program officials said.