The NH-500E helicopters equipped with floats carried out the peculiar training activity on Lake Bracciano near Rome.
At the beginning of November, two NH-500E helicopters (designated TH-500B by the Italian MOD Mission Design Series), belonging to the 72° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) based at Frosinone Air Base, deployed to Vigna di Valle to carry out training activity over Lake Bracciano, some 30 kilometres to the northwest of Rome, Italy.
The flight activity took place on the stretch of water in front of the Air Force Sports Center, a place surrounded by nature that houses the the Museo Storico Aeronautica Militare – Italian Air Force Museum, the most important aviation museum in Italy, that has recently been re-opened after works to renew its exhibition facilities. The Aviationist‘s photographer Giovanni Maduli went there to take the photos you can find in this article.
The purpose of the peculiar activity, carried out with special floats installed under the skids, which allow helicopter float operations in complete safety, in both lake and sea scenarios, was to maintain the currencies and refine the technical/professional skills of the aircrews of the 72nd Wing.
The mission profiles flown by the IPs (Instructor Pilots) of the 208° Gruppo (Squadron) saw the helicopters perform take-off and landing from the surface of the lake; train in various emergency procedures on the water; and also fly in formation with the helicopter in the quite unusual configuration with floats.
“This training activity was essential to refine the instructors’ familiarity with helicopter operations under normal conditions and even more so in emergency conditions. Flying over water, in fact, involves specific problems such as, for example, spatial disorientation due to reflections of light on the water, the reduction of visibility and the modified aerodynamic condition of the carrier,” said Major Valerio U., head of the detachment, on the ItAF website.
The training campaign also made it possible to test all the logistical and operational support the Wing needs to put in place to maintain full efficiency and responsiveness in operations carried out far from home. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that, along with its primary role of Italian helicopter school, the 72nd Wing can undertake real missions. As happened in the past, when the unit’s NH-500Es deployed abroad in Peace Keeping/Enforcing Operations: in the early 2000s, the NH-500s deployed to Dakovika (in Kosovo), Durazzo (Albania) and Asmara (Eritrea) to support Multinational contingents. In Africa, with the aircraft painted in the white color of the United Nations, the NH-500s flew missions to surveil on the ceasefire along the borders between Ethiopia and Eritrea; in Albania and Kosovo their role was instead to support the Multinational Brigade with liaison flights, transportation (of goods and personnel), reconnaissance and also MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) missions.