Flights bring Truong Sa closer to the mainland

Wednesday, 2018-02-14 08:18:38
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Local people and soldiers in Truong Sa Township, Truong Sa Island District (Khanh Hoa province) welcome a DHC-6 seaplane of the Naval Air Force Brigade 954 to visit Truong Sa. (Photo: Trong Thiet)
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NDO – Over recent days, officials and soldiers of the Naval Air Force Brigade 954 have been busy conducting training flights as they prepare to fly naval vessels carrying necessities and spring warmth from the mainland to locals and soldiers on Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago – the nation’s outpost in the East Sea.

Striving to overcome difficulties

More than four years ago, on July 3, 2013, after reassigning the Air Force Regiment 954 to be under the direction of the Navy, the Naval Air Force Brigade 954 has been equipped with a variety of new, modern aircraft for the implementation of training on anti-submarine, aerial reconnaissance, transporting to Truong Sa and DK1 oil rigs, and search and rescue work. The new equipment has been a breakthrough and brought impressive gains to the combined strength of the People's Navy, but to master the new generation aircrafts, such as DHC-6 seaplanes and EC-225 helicopters, naval air force soldiers have to make great efforts to overcome difficulties.

For many years, piloting the Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopter, Brigade 954’s Head, Senior Lieutenant Colonel Pham Minh Tuan, said that the naval air force is a special and core force under the Navy with high requirements in its training flights. At the request of protecting national sovereignty, the training of the unit has been intensified as it is mainly operating on the sea in harsh weather conditions. Moreover, flying over the sea brings difficulties for navigation and executive command. The brigade did a good job in educating its soldiers about the position and importance of the Navy to be highly responsible in performing their duties, attaching top importance to ensuring flight safety.

Studious in flight training

Over the last few days of the year Cam Ranh military airport was immersed in hot, dry weather. The brigade carried out a night flight training mission but from 2:30pm all staff and technicians were busy finishing the preparation work. On the mark of 5:20pm, just as the sun was setting, all Ka-28 helicopters and DHC-6 seaplanes left the runway heading off into the twilit skies.

In order to fulfill their assigned tasks, the brigade’s authorities focus on directing the training in a specific and effective manner, while strictly abiding by the provisions of flight regulations and training manuals to prepare their pilots to fly in all conditions and situations.

Lieutenant Colonel Tran Huu Phuong, Commander of Squadron 2, said that it is difficult when flying over the sea because there are often sudden whirlwinds, causing the aircraft to change altitude suddenly. Moreover, when working on search and rescue missions, the airplane usually flies at low altitudes, and even slight negligence will cause trouble. Therefore, the fleet operates under strict discipline while motivating the team to learn foreign experiences and foreign languages to strengthen knowledge. Currently, the pilots of the fleet are still young but are always devoted to their profession and ready to receive and complete all assigned tasks.

A Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopter of the Naval Air Force Brigade 954 during training. (Photo: Tran Tien)

Along with such attention to detail, the brigade attaches great importance to ensure the technical work for the aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Phung Van Cuong, Chief of the brigade’s Aircraft Maintenance Workshop said that his unit always strictly follows the maintenance and repair processes, as well as further studying to improve their professional qualifications. They also promote creativity and technical innovation in coordination with other authorities to propose dozens of technical innovations applied in practice for Ka-28 and Ka-32 aircrafts.

The bridge for sentiment between mainland and islands

Lieutenant Colonel Tran Huu Phuong said that since its launch, the brigade’s DHC-6 seaplane and EC-225 helicopter fleets regularly carry working missions from the mainland to Truong Sa and the DK1 rig system. Previously, it took two to three days traveling by boat from the mainland to Truong Sa, but since the inception of the naval air force, travel to the islands has become much easier. When there are soldiers, islanders, or fishermen affected by serious illness or accidents that require urgent emergency procedures, in about two hours, the unit’s aircraft can reach Truong Sa to support the victims. The flights are like "happy bridges" linking Truong Sa, the DK1, and the nation’s outposts with the mainland.

Since 2013, Squadron 2 alone conducted over 4,000 flights, including more than 300 training flights and other passenger missions to visit Truong Sa, as well as many search and rescue flights and flights transporting goods to serve the army and people on the islands. The day of September 1, 2016 marked an unforgettable memory for the fleet. The DHC-6 aircraft piloted by Tran Huu Phuong and Nguyen Van Quyet was assigned to take off in 20 minutes to carry medical staff of the Military Hospital 175 to Truong Sa for the rapid rescue and recovery of Nguyen Thanh Phuong - a fisherman who caught up in an accident and needing urgent treatment. Recently, on December 5, 2017, another DHC-6 piloted by Nguyen Van Quoc and Pham Trung Kien, flew to Truong Sa Lon (Big) Island for the rescue of distressed fishermen Duong Van Cu, 45, from Nha Trang (Khanh Hoa), and pregnant Le Thi Truc Ha who was suffering from complications during delivery, their successful rescues brought much joy to the local people and the patients’ family members. Their work contributes to making the army and people feel confident when operating on the fatherland’s sea and islands.

Colonel Tran Van Vinh, Commissar of the brigade, talked about the maturity of the naval air force: although the force has been in operation for more than four years, the professionalism of the pilots and technical staff has been impressive enough to take over their job and stand ready to receive and fulfill all tasks assigned. In recent years, the brigade has conducted thousands of training flights with absolute safety. In 2017, the unit was honoured by the Navy Command who proposed that the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Defence award it with the Certificate of Merit and the Emulation Flag for such excellent results.

This year, in welcoming the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival, besides the Ministry of Defence's standard treatment, the brigade also secures a Tet gift for each of its officials and soldiers. Before Tet, the unit organised a contest to make banh chung (square glutinous rice cake) and to decorate their rooms to welcome Tet. They also hosted a range of recreational activities and sporting events to entertain the soldiers. Another spring is coming for the naval air force soldiers.

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