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Camp Pendleton's Confined Area Landing Training
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels
September 21, 2019

Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom crews with Marine Light Helicopter Attack Squadron (HMLA) 469, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), conducted confined area landing (CAL) training on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton on June 25, 2019.

A CAL is a type of landing that requires the pilot of an aircraft to land in a compact landing zone. It may also involve a string of maneuvers around obstacles, such as trees, powerlines, and buildings.

This training prepares pilots for the unpredictable circumstances they may encounter in a combat zone. The moderate and predictable year-round climate and terrain of Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton makes the base an ideal training environment for these exercises.

U.S. Marines with Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469 perform confined area landing (CAL) training with a UH-1Y Venom on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California on June 25, 2019. CAL training is held for new pilots to get familiar with landing the UH-1Y Venom on tough terrain areas that other aircraft platforms don’t have the capability of doing. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Andrew Cortez)
U.S. Marines with Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469 perform confined area landing (CAL) training with a UH-1Y Venom on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California on June 25, 2019. CAL training is held for new pilots to get familiar with landing the UH-1Y Venom on tough terrain areas that other aircraft platforms don’t have the capability of doing. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Andrew Cortez)

“The aircraft will have more power when its cooler, which means you can put the aircraft in a tighter landing zone and be able to take off,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Joshua Gornto, UH-1Y Venom pilot, HMLA-469.

According to Capt. Gornto, helicopters are the most versatile platforms in operation within the Marine Corps. He believes it is vital that HMLA-469 conducts this type of training regularly. Being able to land the aircraft in these confined areas during training gives HMLA-469 Marines assurance that in combat, they will have quick access to the Marines on the ground.

With the assistance of aircraft crew chiefs, pilots can essentially have eyes on obstacles below and behind them while landing in confined areas. The crew chiefs observe and inform pilots of obstacles around them to ensure the aircraft lands safely.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dalton Hasbrouck, aerial observer, Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd Marine Air Wing (MAW) looks for any strange movement on the ground on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California on June 25, 2019. CAL training is held for new pilots to get familiar with landing the UH-1Y Venom on tough terrain areas that other aircraft platforms don’t have the capability of doing. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Andrew Cortez)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dalton Hasbrouck, aerial observer, Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd Marine Air Wing (MAW) looks for any strange movement on the ground on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California on June 25, 2019. CAL training is held for new pilots to get familiar with landing the UH-1Y Venom on tough terrain areas that other aircraft platforms don’t have the capability of doing. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Andrew Cortez)

 “Crew chiefs are responsible for the largest field of regard,’ said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Preston Eisele, weapons and tactics instructor crew chief, HMLA-469. “We must have high situational awareness to ensure the safety of the aircraft along with the crew.”

The crew chiefs also have the responsibility of manning weapons in case of enemy threat so that the pilots can focus on maneuvering. Communication between all elements of the crew is essential for safety and mission accomplishment.

“It takes a great deal of crew coordination,” added Sgt. Eisele. “Talking crew chief to crew chief or crew chief to pilot during this training is a good team building exercise.”

The pilots and their crew perform CAL exercises on MCB Camp Pendleton's Pacific coast, mountainous terrain at different elevations, and simulated city neighborhoods used to train in urban combat scenarios called military operations on urbanized terrain (MOUT) towns.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Preston Eisele, weapons and tactics instructor crew chief, Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd Marine Air Wing (MAW) watches the aircrafts surroundings on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California on June 25, 2019. CAL training is held for new pilots to get familiar with landing the UH-1Y Venom on tough terrain areas that other aircraft platforms don’t have the capability of doing. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Andrew Cortez)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Preston Eisele, weapons and tactics instructor crew chief, Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd Marine Air Wing (MAW) watches the aircrafts surroundings on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California on June 25, 2019. CAL training is held for new pilots to get familiar with landing the UH-1Y Venom on tough terrain areas that other aircraft platforms don’t have the capability of doing. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Andrew Cortez)

“The unique part of Camp Pendleton is its diversity,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Anthony Matacotta, UH-1Y Venom pilot, HMLA-469. “We can land on the coast and then in the mountains without having to leave the training area.”

The squadron is just one of eight 3rd MAW squadrons stationed at MCAS Camp Pendleton, and the CAL is just one type of training that they need to perform. Camp Pendleton’s interconnected land, sea, and air ranges allow the squadron to perform dozens of different types of training, including live-fire training with fully-functional ammunition and rockets, in conjunction with other air and ground units.

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