Aviation News Journal
T-27M 1444 takes off from Pirassununga for another training sortie. Pirassununga flight activities make up 40 percent of all FAB flight activities - Photograph by Erik Bruijns
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Repetition Makes Perfection
Text and photography by Erik Bruijns
Academia da Força Aérea
(AFA, Air Force Academy) of the
Força Aérea Brasileira
(FAB, Brazilian Air Force) is located at Pirassununga Air Base in São Paulo state, just under 200 km north of São Paulo.
The T-27M upgrade was completed in 2022, with the new full glass cockpit providing a big step forward for cadets in preparation for the next step in their careers.
Providing training to aspiring pilots, Pirassununga is one of the biggest air bases of the Brazilian Air Force and one of the busiest when it comes to number of take offs and landings. Next to the obvious training squadrons, 1° Esquadrão de Instrução Aérea (EIA, Air Instruction Squadron) flying the Embraer EMB 312 Tucano and 2° Esquadrão de Instrução Aérea flying the Neiva T-25 Universal, the base is also home of the Esquadrão de Vôo a Vela (Gliding Squadron) and the famous Esquadrão de Demonstração Aérea (EDA, Demonstration Team), as known as Esquadrilha da Fumaça (Smoke squadron) which is flying the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano.
The T-25 is a side-by-side propellor aircraft. The seating arrangement is ideal for instructors to give directions in the cadets' first year of flying.
The Neiva T-25 is the primary instruction aircraft and has two side-by-side seats and a six-piston engine, the Lycoming IO 540 K1D5, providing 300 hp. Even though the design is from 1963, the Brazilian Air Force continues to operate the aircraft with great success. The prototype first flew on 29 April 1966. The Brazilian Air Force ordered 150 aircraft and increased this order in 1978 by an additional 28 aircraft. Its basic design makes it an ideal aircraft for initial training and simplifies maintenance. The training on the T-25 is carried out in the East Sector of Pirassununga Air Base, at the 2nd Air Instruction Squadron, which operates from a 1,902 m runway. The Embraer EMB 312 Tucano is the advanced instruction aircraft which has two seats in tandem configuration. The Tucano is equipped with a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25C turboprop engine, providing 750 shp. The T-27 has been around since 16 August 1980, when its first flight was made, and the first of 151 deliveries to the FAB started in September 1983. With ever-changing fighter aircraft, operating more sophisticated and modern avionics, an upgrade for the Tucano was needed as well. The upgrade was made by the company Albatross, partnered with the air force at the Parque de Material Aeronáutico de Lagoa Santa (Lagoa Santa Aeronautics Material Park - PAMA-LS). The work includes a cockpit update, introducing new, large multi-functional displays. Planning called for T-27s to be upgraded to T-27M standard by December 2022, while the first re-delivery was due in mid-2021. Training on the T-27 is carried out in the West Sector of the base, at the 1st Air Instruction Squadron. This part of the base has two runways of 2,000 m. The AFA has an intense air activity schedule, mainly due to the instruction of cadets as well as their instructor officers. Keeping up with all the flight hours, the activities are reaching almost 40 percent of what is flown throughout the FAB, being considered the airfield with the largest movement of military aircraft in Latin America. For everything to happen within the most complete security, the AFA maintains a Search and Rescue (SAR) alert service, with a pair of Eurocopter H-50 Esquilo helicopters.
The Tucano is equipped with a Pratt & Whitney turboprop engine, PT6-25C, providing 750 shaft horsepower.
The use of aircraft in combat operations during World War I confirmed aviation as a determining factor on the battlefields. Before the conflict ended, the Brazilian government already set up the organization of the Military Aviation School. The Brazilian Army Military Aviation School was inaugurated in July 1919, with the technical guidance of the French Military Mission, operating from the airfield of Campo dos Afonsos near Rio de Janeiro.
The Military Aviation School gained great momentum with the creation of the Arma de Aviação do Exército (Army Aviation Weapon) in January 1927, receiving large numbers of new aircraft. With no military aviation units, the Army employed the school as a fighting force in the revolutions of 1922, 1924 and 1930. In January 1941, the Ministry of Aeronautics was created and in March of the same year, the Army Aeronautics School (denomination of the Military Aviation School from December 1940) and the Naval Aviation School were established. In addition, the School of Aeronautics was created, in Campo dos Afonsos, and the School of Aeronautical Specialists, in Ponta do Galeão, the former Naval Aviation School. On January 23rd, 1942, an official commission of aviator officers was formed with the purpose of choosing a new location, free from the limitations of Campo dos Afonsos Air Base. The construction of a new School of Aeronautics was required and eventually Pirassununga was chosen, due to exceptional topographical features which the area offered (the place was called the Upper Field, east of town) and having the best weather and temperature conditions throughout the country for the practice of aerial instruction activities. The construction of the first hangars of the new School of Aeronautics was initiated in 1942. In 1949, the Ministry of Aeronautics appointed a new group of officers to present the project of the new School. This resulted in the study and construction of the School of Aeronautics, with the proposal of updating the school project, arranging, and supervising the construction. On October 17th, 1960, Pirassununga was finally opened, but it still took a decade before the base was used as the primary training facility for the Brazilian Air Force. The change of name, from School of Aeronautics to Air Force Academy, took place in 1969. This paved the way for the full transition and in 1971 the Academy was transferred to its new facilities in Pirassununga. At the end of 1971, the Air Force Academy formed the first class of aviators and officers.
The T-25 is used as a basic trainer. This includes basic manoeuvres, aerobatics, formation flight and navigation.
The Air Force Academy is a higher education institution, which integrates the training and improvement system of aeronautical command. Its purpose is to train aviators, intendants, and infantry officers of the Brazilian Air Force, encouraging and improving in each cadet the intellectual, moral and physical attributes essential to becoming an air force officer. The AFA training courses are equivalent to full undergraduate courses, which, although not similar in the civil system, resemble the areas of engineering and administration. The use of the curriculum in civil higher education courses is regulated by the Federal Council of Education of the Ministry of Education. The moral, scientific, military and technical-specialized subjects are taught by a combination of federal civilian teachers, military instructors and monitors, following a predefined structure. Physical education and military instruction are both disciplines taught in parallel. This includes courses of skydiving and survival at sea and in the jungle. With a country as vast as Brazil there are a number of these specialized courses that may not be relevant to cadets in other countries.
The Neiva T-25 is a very basic aircraft from the sixties. This makes maintenance straight forward.
There are three main courses taught by the AFA, as per the earlier mentioned goals for the Brazilian Air Force:
CFOAV - Training Course for Aviator Officers
CFOINT - Training Course of Intendant Officers
CFOINF - Infantry Officer Training Course
CFOAV cadets begin their training, as with all trainees, in basic training. During this first year at the AFA, they will learn their basic values as an officer. This initial year will prepare them for the rest of their training programme and will also show the air force which cadets ‘have what it takes’. The enrolment into the programme is on a voluntary basis, but the Brazilian Air Force needs to make sure that their selection will deliver the required quality to make good aviators. It’s key to make sure that the intensity of the courses is clear and that the expectations are set from the start. After basic training, the aerial instruction part of the course will start in their second year, flying the Neiva T-25 Universal, a locally manufactured aircraft. Each student will fly about 40 hours in this small propeller aircraft. The third year is another academic year with further classroom learning. Over the course of their four-year period at the AFA, each cadet will finalize two degrees in flying science and public administration. This is on top of their graduation as a pilot. The fourth and final year will see the cadet moving on to the Embraer EMB 312 Tucano (locally designated T-27). This is the advanced-instruction turboprop aircraft, which is also a locally manufactured aircraft, in which they fly about 90 hours.
CFOINT cadets study in an administration and intendency laboratory, where they learn the science and modern technology of economic-financial management and specialized services of intendency and technical supply, thus preparing for the tasks of a surface combatant, integrated into the Logistics System of the Ministry of Aeronautics.
CFOINF cadets study methods of defence and security of military installations, use of airfield and site anti-aircraft defence, command of fractions of troops and fire crews, military legislation and weapons use, military service and mobilization.
A cadet is ready for his next flight in the T-27M.
The Air Force Academy has on average 100 graduates that move on to the next step in becoming pilots with one of the active squadrons within the Brazilian Air Force. From Pirassununga, the graduated cadets will move to Natal Air Base in the North of Brazil. At Natal, each pilot will receive further training and it is here where the type of aircraft they will be flying on will be decided. During this next phase it will be clear if the pilot will go on to fly a helicopter, a transport aircraft, or a fighter. This way of working ensures that the AFA is focussing on the overall abilities of the cadets and having the next step in their careers go into details of their next assignment.
The aerobatic display squadron, Esquadrilha da Fumaca, uses the A-29A Super Tucano for their air demonstrations. They celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2022.
As with many parts of the armed forces in countries all over the world, there is a constant focus on efficiency. This in combination with ever increasing costs in different areas means that also the flight schools are looking at reducing their spending. For a flight school this would mean a reduction in flight hours for the cadets as the fuel and maintenance cost for the aircraft is one of the most expensive items of the budget. This is, however, a difficult situation because the cadets need to fly a certain number of hours as per the training programme. The Brazilian Air Force and the AFA has therefore focussed on modernization in their flight simulators. Over the past years there has been an increase in simulators and a complete modernization programme to have new, state-of-the-art, simulators. With the upgrades in the cockpit of the T-27M Tucano, there was also a direct link with the aircraft upgrade and what the cadets were seeing in the simulator. A study between the AFA and the São José dos Campos Aeronautics Computing Centre (CCA-SJ), took place in 2016 and 2017 to determine the requirements and make a choice on available systems. The last system was introduced back in August 2022 and there are now three different simulators fully operational. This has enabled the academy to operate with a reduction in flight hours for both aircraft types, leading to a reduction in cost, but more importantly an increase in possibility for the cadets to get even more experience in procedures and protocols on the aircraft. This in return has resulted in an increase in quality of the capabilities of the cadets. The complete package of simulators consists of three systems, the T-2000, T-3000 and T-4000. Each system works autonomously, but each type can be linked together to enable multiple cadets to practice together. This further increases the realism of the simulators.
The T-2000 simulator uses three screens and can be configured as the T-25 and the T-27. It's an ideal system for the cadets to get initial and additional training.
Introduced in 2020, the T-2000 simulator allows the training of various types of missions and application of primary concepts, such as flight theory and air traffic rules. The system is using three main screens with which the most advanced concepts of piloting, such as manoeuvres and aerobatics, graduation flight, night flight and visual and instrument navigation flights can be simulated. In this way, a single piece of equipment will accompany the cadet from the beginning of his/her flight training in with 2° EIA until the end of the aviator officer training course, in the fourth year, with 1° EIA. Former Air Commander, Air Lieutenant General Bermudez explained, "The expectation is that this tool will assist in the training of airmen of the Brazilian Air Force, helping to deliver increasingly prepared and experienced professionals, with lower rate of attrition in training. In a way, there will be an increase in quality with cost reduction, just following the technological developments that are presented every day in the aviation universe.” Because it has highly customizable software, the T-2000 provides the simulation not only of the T-27 Tucano, but also of the T-25 Universal aircraft, with which the cadet has contact in the AFA. With Force Feedback technology, the same hardware simulates the differences in commands between aircraft. Developed in a partnership between the AFA and the São José dos Campos Aeronautics Computing Centre (CCA-SJ), the project presents another great differential: its low cost. The acquisition is estimated at less than 10% of the expenditure with the products currently offered in the market, which was made possible by the individual choice of each component of software and hardware, enabling the use of several brands, with greater price competition.
The T-3000 simulator is a Virtual Reality (VR) simulator that has been in use for some time already but has recently been updated. Since 2020, the Brazilian Air Force has been running two projects to integrate its simulators and to increase its inventory: Integrated Simulators for Military Air Operations (SIOM) and Aerospace Simulation Environment (ASA). SIOM will provide physical integration to the force’s systems and ASA (currently in its initial phases) will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to integrate the simulators. Nowadays, there is no programme that can be built in terms of a military environment without integration. Besides effective integration, the air force also aims to use AI to provide geolocation and to perform mapping tasks autonomously. There are further plans to invest in technology for merging data from different sources to increase situational awareness; Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) systems to train in Augmented Reality (AR), VR and mixed reality environments.
The T-4000 simulator is as close to the T-27M as the cadet can come. It is an ideal platform for cadets to get more familiar with all the systems in the Tucano.
Where the T-2000 and T-3000 simulators use basic functions and put more focus on the flight training, like aircraft handling and formation flying, the T-4000 simulator is closer to a full aircraft flight simulator. The T-4000 system uses an actual cockpit section of the T-27M, surrounded by five screens. The cockpit has the exact same layout as the actual aircraft. The other two systems don’t have this luxury, which does make them more flexible and enables them to simulate both aircraft types used at Pirassununga. The Former Director of the Air Force Information Technology (DTI), Brigadeiro Magarão, explains: “We are capable, and we have developed a solution to a strategic problem for the Brazilian Air Force. This delivery will decisively contribute to basic education with the increase efficiency in the training of cadets and saving resources, even extending the useful life of the aircraft. It is a commitment by DTI to invest in the modernization of teaching at the Air Force Academy. With the recent modernization of the T-27 Tucano aircraft, the need to update the simulator arose, with a total remodelling of its panel and avionics, adopting the new technologies and systems implemented. After the delivery of the first T-27M aircraft to the AFA, at the beginning of 2022, the process of adaptation and modernization of the T-4000 flight simulator with the academy began, which in a short period of time managed to completely remodel the structure of the simulator, installing the modern Garmin systems, in addition to improving its flight capabilities. Currently, with the delivery of the T-4000, it is possible for the cadets to have a total immersion in the aircraft, being able to interact in its entirety. It has all the instruments and functionalities of the T-27M aircraft, in addition to allowing reliable training in emergency procedures.”
Digital T-27M 1444 takes off from Pirassununga for another training sortie. Pirassununga flight activities take up 40 percent of all FAB flight activities.