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CH 147 Backenders (FE/LM) Debate

Considering this thread, please indicate your preference wrt CH 147 crew:


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HeavyHooker

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Scoobs, where did you hear about the current standard crew config?  I know that it was discussed that the LMs would be on the new CH 47s but I did not think that an official decision had been made yet.  And with the memo wrt the standup of the MHLH Sqn not having an LMs on listed, I thought that their union had lost the battle.  Has anything changed from that memo?  I am not totally in the loop as of right now (holidays!!!!) and am wondering if I have missed anything.

And as far as the current standard crewing, as of Roto 11 EOB last week, LMs were not flying in crew positions at all.  That I have verified as fact.  I am not sure where you got that figure.

One other thing is that the prerequisite for the FE trade for the COTP (only way available - direct entry was squashed) is to have a level A signature as an AVN Tech.  The one change that is coming, but not yet there, is that AVS Techs will be accepted on a trial basis to attempt to alleviate the strain on the undermanned AVN trade.  And as far as authorizations, all it takes is a trip through a 150/300/etc with your tech assessor to get re-qualified and SAMS authorization.
 

Scoobs

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I'll re-check on the manning, i.e. about the LM question.

Good to know that the direct entry was quashed.  That will alleviate some of my concerns about future FEs lacking technical knowledge/experience.

As for authorizations for FEs, it used to be this way, but is not anymore (trust me, I was recently a SAMEO/SMM at a Tac Hel unit).  FEs are no longer coming down to inspections and a "top level" decision was made that all Tac Hel FEs would lose most of their authorizations.  My SAMS, as like others, were directed to remove the FE's authorizations.  This is simply reality as the FE trade is so short right now, the ability to come down to the floor vice being needed in the a/c was severely impacted.

I never mentioned anything about LMs operating in Afg as I have no personal knowledge of this.  I am not sure why you refer to this?
 

HeavyHooker

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Scoobs said:
Current standard crewing is x2 pilots, one FE, and one LM.

I thought that you were referring to Afghanistan crews with the above quote.  That is why I brought it up.  Sorry for any confusion.

The authorizations is odd and it seems to differ between units.  I know that one Sr FE/STA at one of the Tac Hel units is trying to bring back "Stables Days" like in the old days but I am not exactly sure how much backing he is getting from the brass because that would impact Flying Ops.  This would allow our FE Tech Assessors to maintain currencies as well as all A level TX'd quals that the guys hold (ie. 150, etc).  I definitely agree that FE's are not on the floor enough to maintain their currencies as it stands now but I still hold out hope now that Tac Hel's Afghan role is done that things may return to some semblance of normalcy. 

Or at least normal until the next big thing.....
 

Zoomie

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HeavyHooker said:
This would allow our FE Tech Assessors to maintain currencies as well as all A level TX'd quals that the guys hold (ie. 150, etc).
With the new changes to the FE MOSID - the return to the servicing/maintenance floor for Snr NCO FE's is almost guaranteed. 
 

HeavyHooker

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Good point Zoomie. 

The transition to AMSup will hopefully bridge some of the gap between FE and AVN.  There is some serious resistance to that in the upper echelon of the FE trade and the AVN trade as well.  FE's don't want to stop flying when they reach WO so Sr FE's are still fighting this.  For what its worth, I don't think it will take hold and stay, but thats just my $.02 so who knows...
 

Zoomie

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HeavyHooker said:
There is some serious resistance to that in the upper echelon of the FE trade and the AVN trade as well. 
Resistance is futile... :)

In all reality, the airborne NCM trade is changing dramatically.  With the almost elimination of the FE position on most modern fleets - a move to a "jack of all trades" MOSID is near.  Just take the FWSAR recommendations - FE and NAV/ACSO have been replaced with Tech Crewman and Sensor Operator.  Notice that it doesn't specifically state any MOSIDs that we currently have - just a generic recommendation.  That leaves it up to the AVN/FE/LM/ACSO/AESOP mafias to fight it out for positions on the new platform.
 

HercFE

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I have been watching this  thread for a while and have held my tongue in check as not to infer my personal feelings. My belief is the FE trade needs to under go a huge paradigm shift. We are no longer a person in the cockpit that manages fuel and pressurization. We are now airborne operations NCMs  conducting task from anything from MX15 operations to rigging and dropping SAR Bundles to SAR techs on the ground. We also carry out tech duties on the ground and airborne as well as traditional FE duties such as fuel management, pressurization and weight and balance. The FE trade is very dynamic and does not need to be pigion holed. You have a huge pool of people that have a technical background  that can be employed in a vast variety airborne and ground duties.We should use them instead of creating new positions.
 

Zoomie

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IMHO - I concur 100% with what HercFE just said.  I would much rather have a FE that knows how to strap down a load in the back, operate an EO/IR, conduct weight and balance and de-snag an aircraft.  The maintenance background that Canadian FE's bring to the plate is an essential element to an effective SAR crew.  TAL crews (C-17, J Herc) can get away with just 2 pilots and 2 LMs - FWSAR needs the full skillset for its rapidly changing mission.
 

Scoobs

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Cofirmed: current (emphasis on current as we all know that things can change in the CF rather quickly) manning for the new Chinook is x2 pilots, x1 FE, and x1 LM.

No, I say again, no, tech crewman is currently part of the crew.
 

beenthere

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I flew on CH-113As and CH-147s with the FE&LM combo and it worked very well. Each had their own special training and background to draw from and they worked together. The FE helped the LM with the passengers and load tie down and other related jobs and the LM helped the FE with his duties. On a fuel stop the LM refueled the aircraft while the FE did the after/before flight checks,tightened up the leaks and did the paperwork.
On field operations the LM liaised with the customers and checked that sling loads were rigged properly and checked that cargo loads were within legal standards etc.
Neither myself or any other FEs had ever rigged sling loads,didn't know much about cargo regulations and we didn't have time to get involved in that aspect of the mission as keeping the aircraft in flying condition was usually a full time job.
On away from home operations such as in the Arctic or other remote locations we often crewed up with 2 FEs and 2 LMs as one of each wasn't enough to keep the show on the road.
I doubt very much that we ever had any more than 3 or 4 senior FEs on the Squadron at any one time and that was only at the beginning of the CH-147 operation when all of the FEs were from the Squadron's former CH-113A operation. Even at that we were pretty green. There was a huge learning curve. Our experience in remote operations and being able to fix things rather than send for a repair crew was our greatest strength.
The LMs  had to work outside the box in rigging unconventional loads and deciding if we could carry some of the things that we were tasked to move.Many of our taskings involved slinging things that were one of a kind moves of large loads that required a lot of rigging and reriging in order to get the load to fly right. That kind of work requires someone who can dedicate their knowledge and efforts to the task.
People who came to us from the TACHEL  world were about as green as the recent FE "recruits" as they had mostly served as cabin boys who looked after the passengers and had a notable lack of experience on the technical side of operations.

My choice would be for the FE&LM combo as they each bring their background training,knowledge and experience to the operation and given the right training and experience they would complement each other to make a great back end team.
 

HeavyHooker

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I understand what you are saying "beenthere" but the issue I have is that FE's today all have their TAMS course and rigging loads is not that complicated.  The pams hold your hand and walk you through the different loads to be honest.  C of G and Wt & Bal are equally simple.  Strapping down loads is not complicated and for the last 3 years, FE's have done all of this with no incidents.

When you bring on a LM and take out an FE (or Tech CM for that matter), are you gaining or losing?  You are bringing on somebody who is qualified to do all of the things that an FE is qualified to do but you are losing years of technical experience that can sometimes make or break a mission.  I don't think that there is a single person who operated out of CHF(A) in since 2008 that would prefer to have an LM over an FE, apart from the LM's who were there as observers of course.

I just can't see the reasoning behind it other than one union is better than another and each trade fights for its own survival.  When you take away the politics behind this whole discussion, and cast it solely in the spot light of common sense and what is right for the airframe, I just honestly can not see the benefit of an FE/LM team.  Again, my two cents.

HH
 

beenthere

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Rigging loads for the army support role is obviously not complicated as over time a pretty much fool proof system has been developed.The CH-147 never had a problem with C of G or Wt & Bal as you would have to work very hard to build a load that would fall outside the limits. Not an issue.Same goes for load tie down.The army support role is the easy part.

However, once you go outside of that role and get tasked with moving big and unusual loads which don't have any slinging points or instructions you're getting into a whole new game. When we got the first CH-147s we started getting tasked to move all of the things that had been accumulating for years all over the country because there had been no way to move them. There's no way that the same people (FEs) who had a full time job keeping the aircraft running and fixing snags on an away from base operation can also figure out a plan to rig a load that has never been slung before without losing their sense of priority. The aircraft has to be working properly in order to sling the load and the load has to fly properly or the aircraft can't move it.

Common sense will tell most people that there's no way that the same people can look after both ends of the operation.
To give an example of the industrial equivalent a crane operator on a construction project operates a huge crane that is maintained by a mechanic who knows all about how the crane works to lift a component that has been rigged by iron workers who have rigged it to lift so that it will stay level while the bolt it into place. A couple of years ago I watched a team install new blades on a huge wind powered generator and that's exactly how it works.

Given that in the military people get moved away from a job just about the time that they become proficient and experienced we must assume that whoever goes out to do something that's outside the box will be doing something that's totally new to them so it's best that there be a split in specialties.

Forward thinking: The board of inquiry concluded that the crash was caused because the FEs who rigged the tower for sling loading were not aware that the sling that broke was damaged because they hadn't realized that it could come in contact with the sharp surface of the steel brace. They had been involved with trying to rectify an engine oil pressure problem with the helicopter and had been distracted from the rigging task when they positioned the sling over the sharp side of the brace.

That's exactly what will happen when you try to make someone an instant jack of all trades in a system where everyone is just passing through on a 3 or 4 year posting. 


 

beenthere

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Infanteer said:
Sounds like an Army Air Corps trade to me.... :stirpot:
I started flying on CH-113As with army aviators. At the rate that they were destroying the CH-113A fleet it would have become extinct by the early 1990's rather than living on to retirement for some and a civilian career for others.
 

Loachman

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And at the rate that RCAF pilots were simultaneously destroying other fleets...
 

beenthere

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http://www.colheli.com/ Professional operators usually fly the same aircraft (Chinook) with just a pilot and copilot and they fly a whole lot more than military helicopters do.
However they don't waste their time and money training crews and then moving them on to another aircraft or occupation where they have to train them all over again.
Obviously the military can't operate that way but it certainly shows how the military can complicate a rather simple operation and still not get it right.
 

beenthere

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Loachman said:
And at the rate that RCAF pilots were simultaneously destroying other fleets...
Actually the R.C.A.F. started out with 6 and the R.C.A.S.C. started out with 12. I may be wrong but I think that all but 1 of the R.C.A.F. 113s survived to retirement.
As for other fleets each has their own history. The ones with the highest attrition rates were the aircraft where pilots flew unsupervised such as Sabers and T-33s.
 

Inverted

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I'm not normally one to post on-line (I think this is my first post here after reading for awhile) but for once I may have something useful to add.  I'm one of the guys posted Down Under with the Australian Army Chinook Sqn so I'll add another perspective.

The Aussies have both Loadmasters and Aircrewman Technical ((AT) their version of an FE) on the CH-47. The -47 is the only aircraft that they employ an AT on, their Blackhawks and MRH-90 are crewed solely by LM's.

I was a little skeptical of the LM concept when I first got here but I think I was tainted a little by my experience with LM's in Canada.  Just like in Canada, LM is not a direct entry trade, the difference here is that you can apply for LM from any trade; I would say the vast majority come from the Combat Arms with the rest coming from aviation related trades (the Australian Army has some aviation related support trades which work really well, but that's another thread!). The man job of the LM's is to direct/con the aircraft, take care of loading and rigging and keeping the performance data up to date.  The key extra duty they have is that they are the experts on door-gunnery, especially since they -47's here are armed with 2 x M134D's in the forward windows.

The one major problem for the LM's is that they are not allowed to conduct any maintenance related tasks, to the point that technically they are not even allowed to do panel checks after the pre-flight.   

The AT's here operate very much like FE's do in Canada, they do the pre/post flight inspections/user maintenance and in-flight troubleshooting, plus they direct the aircraft and do the same loading and rigging as the LM's, they just do it under the supervision of a LM.

In the end, with the exception of the maintenance tasks, LM's and AT's receive the same training (they both attend the same basic course where they learn to con aircraft, rig loads, etc) and in reality they can work any station in the back of the aircraft.
 
The other key difference here is that the Chinooks are crewed with three back-seaters for the vast majority of all flights, the only time we go with a smaller crew is for test flights, when it's just an AT in the back, or for critical flights and a third back-seater can't be found. The Aussies decided it does no good to train to operate with a crew of 2 when you know that you will always go to war with a crew of 3. So crewing here is normally 2 x LM's and 1 x AT, but it's not unusual to go out with 2 AT's and 1 LM (which I think it the ideal solution). Normally the 2 LM's will man the right and left guns (windows) and the AT will man the ramp (and thus have access to the maintenance panel). This is why the LM's tend to be the gunnery experts.

All that to say I think the ideal solution includes both FE's and LM's with a few caveats:

1) LM must be split away from the traffic tech trade. I think it would be more beneficial to have a number of former Combat Arms doing the job then former traffic techs.
2) LM's must be provided with similar technical training as pilots (if not more). If they can train me to do a pre-flight (to be honest I'd be lucky to identify a hammer 50% of the time!) they can train LM's to do it; and ultimately relieve some of the pressure on the FE's.
3) We should look beyond the 2 man cabin crew and push for a crew of 3 back-seaters, train like you fight.

Anyway my $0.02AUD (which is about $0.015CAD right now, damn exchange rate!! :'(

Cheers :cdn:
 

HeavyHooker

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Inverted, thanks for the post from down-under.  I have spoken with a few of the Aussie FE's overseas wrt the M134 mounting system before we mounted ours and their system did seem to work pretty well although when I told them how we operated with two FE's they were obviously partial to our system as it lightens the workload (ie. more people doing pre-flight in stead of sitting in the air conditioning!).  If you are who I think you are, I am pretty sure that I have flown with you as well on Roto 8 when you came over to fly with us Canucks...

A couple of points of concern:

1)  Our LM's must be drawn from the Traffic Tech trade.  Most are career AF guys with no Cbt Arms experience.  When we fly overseas we have a DG on the left gun that must be a cbt arms soldier.  The point is to have a soldier that can advise the a/c which COA to follow on the ground in the event of us having to land outside the wire.  Canadian LM's are all Herc or C17 guys that have zero tactical experience.  If we started taking Infanteers and making them LM's, I think that would be an outstanding idea and that they would then bring so much more to the table in a Chinook crew.  I do not see that happening any time soon however.

2)  Training LM's to do pre-flights.  Without any technical background, this is a tough nut to crack.  Even the pilots that help out with pre-flights, the FE's ask them to only do the less technical aspects.  The phrase that was put to me during my trg went something like "Where are the parts that can kill you, the top and inside the a/c right?  Get the pilots to walk around and check panels."  Now that is a bit harsh as a I know that most pilots are perfectly capable but there still is not that intimate technical background and most FE's would rather just do the check themselves than have someone other than another FE help out.  Also, the P-Series manuals that governs all airworthiness issues dictates very specifically what LMs are allowed to do and any maintenance related activities are forbidden, including checks.

3)  When you say LMs should be split from Tfc Tech and have Cbt Arms troops become DGs why not just bring back Mission Specs to be the Gunnery Experts and have two FE's, who are both qualified to do a LMs job?  We all have the TAMS course for rigging loads, can do C of G and Wt and B and the paperwork involved with all of those things.  With two FEs on board, you have the technical background, all of the required quals, Combat Experience from the last 3 years and the background of working in a Tac Hel environment.  I still think that this is the only plan that makes any sense without giving up more than you gain.

I realize that "beenthere" does not agree but the FE trade has evolved from where it was when he was an engineer on our old B and C models.

I would love to hear more thoughts from all of you.

HH
 
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