Starting in Fall 2013, helicopter flight students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus will have access to a new piece of technology to improve their learning experience. The College of Aviation recently received funding to buy two pairs of brand new, military grade night vision goggles (NVGs) and helmets to mount them on. Along with a third pair donated by L3 Communications, these high-tech M949 Infinity NVGs will offer students in the AS 378 Environmental Helicopter Operations course the chance to experience a cutting edge and extremely relevant piece of aviation technology.

The typical helicopter pilot’s career begins with a stint as a flight instructor and tour pilot, but after the pilot gains enough experience to move on, many will find themselves using NVGs as a part of their jobs. Pilots with careers in the military, border patrol, law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services, and many others may find themselves needing to fly at night. NVGs lend themselves especially well to helicopter operations, where pilots frequently find themselves making off-field landings, without the bright runway lights and air traffic control fixed wing pilots usually enjoy. NVGs are a huge safety asset for helicopter pilots flying under these conditions.

Although AS 378 Environmental Helicopter Operations has been offered in the past, this is the first time students will be able to fully experience the NVGs they will be learning about. Roughly a third of this course will be dedicated to learning techniques for using NVGs, as well as discussing their limitations and construction. Students will participate in a field to trip to the L3 Communications Manufacturing Plant in Phoenix, where these NVGs are actually constructed.

In addition to the computer-based training offered in previous years, students will now be able to handle and use actual NVGs of the same quality used by the aviation industry, a valuable addition to any helicopter pilot’s education. Professor Bryan Cox, the AS 378 instructor, said it best: “The objective is to expose students to as much of the industry as possible, so when they get to a position where they fly with NVGs, then they will have some academic knowledge and know the terminology. They will get to touch, feel, and gain an understanding of these NVGs.”

AS 378 will be classroom only, however Universal Helicopters Incorporated (UHI), the contractor in charge of ERAU helicopter training, has recently purchased an NVG-compatible helicopter. The university is currently reviewing UHI’s NVG helicopter course, and in the future ERAU students may be able to put their knowledge of NVGs to a practical test right here in Prescott.

Upon completion of AS 378, students will receive an NVG Ground Training Endorsement in their logbooks. Because of the level of technology of these NVGs, this course is governed by the State Department’s International Trade in Arms Regulations. For national security reasons, any students who are not American citizens should make themselves known to their professors so they can get State Department approval to use the NVGs. All helicopter flight students are encouraged to take advantage of this great new investment by the university. For further information or to see the NVGs, please contact Professor Bryan Cox [] or Dr. Robert Fiegl [].

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