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Cpl. Alec Bechtel, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, communicates with pilots during a field carrier landing practice at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 30, 2016. Marines with VMM-161 conducted field carrier landing practices at Camp Pendleton to maintain their proficiency in landing aboard Navy vessels.

Photo by Sgt. Lillian Stephens

VMM-161, VMM 165 train together

7 Apr 2016 | Sgt. Lillian Stephens 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 “Greyhawks” conducted a division flight, a flight with three or more aircraft, and practiced confined area landings with Marines from VMM-165 “White Knights” in Southern California, March 30, 2016.

Three Ospreys, one from VMM-161 and two from VMM-165, practiced flying in formations and landing in close proximity to each other during confined area landings. According to Sgt. Sean Machale, a crew chief with VMM-161 and a San Diego native, it solidified a cooperative relationship between the squadrons.

“It’s really important to start practicing with other squadrons as well because when you’re [deployed] … you could be flying with any number of different squadrons,” said Machale. “It’s always good to be on the same page as everybody else.” 

Later in the day, Marines with VMM-161 also completed field carrier landing practices aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. During field carrier landing practice, the pilots practiced landing in an area that simulates an aircraft carrier’s flight deck, which is a necessary skill when operating aboard Navy vessels.

“The pads are good because it gives us practice without having to go to a ship,” said Cpl. Alec Bechtel, a crew chief with VMM-161 and a Mesa, Arizona native. “It gives [us] a chance to make the calls, fly the patterns without actually having to worry about the ship and [its] operations.”

Bechtel said pilots depend on the crew chiefs to help create a 360-degree view around the Osprey during these maneuvers. Crew chiefs will communicate the location of other aircraft, nearby objects and the Osprey’s distance from the ground.

“Training like this is important because it keeps up proficiency within the squadron [and] within each member,” said Bechtel. “It allows them to practice the calls they’re making, making sure everyone is comfortable working with each other especially when we work with another squadron.”

According to Machale, conducting confined area landings, division formation flights and field carrier landing practices prepared the pilots and air crew to operate in various scenarios, whether they’re assigned to a Navy vessel or on an installation.

“We’re actually landing in zones that are covered in dirt, dust and debris. [We must be] comfortable as a crew,” said Machale. “That’s basically what today’s flight was all about, just keeping the pilots informed on the location of the other two aircraft that were in our flight. It’s the crew chief’s job in the back to make sure we’re passing all that information on to the pilots so they can [understand] everything that’s going on around the aircraft.”

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