MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Sept. 24 to complete advanced aviation training requirements.
VMFAT-101 is a training squadron for Marine Corps and Navy students who have been assigned to fly one of the F/A-18 variants. The squadron is based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 11.
“The reason we left Miramar was because of the weapons and tactics instructor’s course and the air show happening there,” said Maj. Dave King, the assistant maintenance officer with VMFAT-101. “Those things got in the way of the training that we needed to accomplish. Whenever a (weapons and tactics instructor’s course)comes through, we lose all of our range time.”
The squadron brought fifteen F-18 aircraft, a mix of the B, C and D variants, to train aboard Fightertown. VMFAT-101 plans on flying every day to train as much as possible during their time in Beaufort.
“We will fly a lot over the next few weeks,” said Capt. Steve Bellevue, an instructor with VMFAT-101.
Most of the pilots visiting are in training and need to complete simulated missions to advance their training.
“There is a lot of training to do,” said King. “We have several students that are preparing for training aboard a ship. A week after we return to Miramar, we are sending fourteen students off to carrier operations, so we will be doing field carrier landing exercises here. We also have some air to ground training with the local ranges here.”
Field carrier landing practice is when pilots rehearse landing on an aircraft carrier. They simulate the conditions and restrictions of landing at sea. It’s important to conduct the training on a flight line first to build their proficiency before they try it on the carrier.
“It’s pretty amazing to see these pilots land on the ship for the first time,” said King. “It’s not a big target area and it is even more difficult at night.”
To better simulate landing on ship, there is a silhouetted resemblance on the flight line of an aircraft carrier deck complete with the wires used to stop the jet.
Usually twice a year, VMFAT-101, leaves Miramar and continues to train on another air station. This is the first time they have utilized MCAS Beaufort.
“Beaufort was chosen as our temporary home because many of its squadrons are deployed or training,” said Bellevue. “Another reason is the support we get here. We have full support from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 and there is a flight simulator here that sets Beaufort apart from other air stations. Miramar and Beaufort are the only two places in the Marine Corps with F-18 flight simulators. ”
VMFAT-101 will hang their hat in one of Marine Aircraft Group 31’s deployed squadron’s hangars.
“It’s good to get away from home,” said King. “It’s feels good to get out of our comfort zone and be in a new place and get a change of scenery.”
Although VMFAT-101 is far from home, the mission remains the same: training the most tactically efficient Hornet pilots.
“VMFAT-101 is by far one of the most aggressive squadrons,” said King. “We train the future aviators and maintainers of the Marine Corps and Navy. I have Marines, sailors and contractors all working together here with me.”