MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 departed Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Oct. 16, after three weeks of training. The squadron completed advanced aviation training requirements both in the classroom and in the air while at the air station.
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 squadron brought fifteen F-18 aircraft, a mix of B, C and D models, to train at Miramar.
“We accomplished a lot of training here,” said Navy Lt. Schuyler Onderdonk, an instructor with VMFAT-101. “We have been flying every day since we arrived here. We start in the late afternoon and continue into the night. The primary reason we are out here is to execute field carrier landing practice, which are a central part of a pilot’s training. Individual pilots have gotten more than a thousand FCLP passes since we’ve been here.”
Field carrier landing practice is a rehearsal for pilots training to land on an aircraft carrier. They simulate the conditions and restrictions of landing at sea. It is important to conduct the training on a flight line first to build their proficiency before they try it on the carrier.
To execute an FCLP you need an improved fresnel lens optical landing system which is used by pilots to navigate their landing in the last phase of landing, said Onderdonk.
The IFLOLS uses a fiber optic light to pinpoint a jets exact location in relation to the deck. 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.
“The reason we have so much FCLP training on our schedule is because we have several students that are preparing for training aboard a ship,” said Maj. Dave King, the assistant maintenance officer with VMFAT-101. “A week after we return to Miramar, we are sending fourteen students off to carrier operations.”
The carrier qualification is the final event in an F-18 pilots training. Once the pilots have completed the final test of landing on a carrier they will be assigned duty stations. Some will even return to Beaufort to join a resident squadron.
“Most of these pilots are nearing the end of their education with VMFAT-101,” said Onderdonk. “Our time here has been like a culmination of their training. When we return to MCAS Miramar we will be doing final preparations before the carrier qualification on Oct. 23.”
These pilots have been training with VMFAT-101 for about two years. When they came to the squadron they already knew how to fly so instructors work on the building blocks and fundamentals to put them in an F-18 cockpit.
For many Marines and sailors of VMFAT-101, visiting Beaufort was a brand new experience.
“Most of our pilots haven’t been in long enough to know about places like this,” said King. “Miramar is a great place to be stationed but it’s nice to get out there and experience new areas like Beaufort.”
“We’ve enjoyed our time here in Beaufort,” said Onderdonk. “Many of the instructors in VMFAT-101 have been stationed here in the past so it’s like coming home.”