You can read the special coverage published in the December 2019 Issue of MSI Turkish Defence Review here:
Onur KURÇ / email@example.com
Tayfun YAŞAR / firstname.lastname@example.org
Gendarmerie pilots, who play an important role in the internal security and anti-terrorism operations being carried out in various regions, as well as in search & rescue activities, demonstrate their experience and skills in the use of helicopters through the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar (Gendarmerie Steel Wings) aerobatic team. We present here the story of the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar, which pushes the limits of what can be done with S-70 BLACK HAWKs.
The establishment of the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar aerobatic team coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Gendarmerie Aviation under the General Command of Gendarmerie, which was celebrated in October in 2018. Within the events held to mark the anniversary, a ceremony was held for the pilots and technicians who had graduated from Gendarmerie Aviation School Command. The graduation ceremony saw the first aerobatic show performed by a Sikorsky S-70 BLACK HAWK helicopter. The performance, which took place at Güvercinlik Airport in Ankara, also went down in history as the first official demonstration by the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar team. This was how the new aerobatic team, which now stands alongside the Turkish Air Force’s Turkish Stars and SOLOTÜRK aerobatic teams, belonging to a different force command and demonstrating their flying abilities in helicopters, was born.
S-70 BLACK HAWKs Prepared for Shows
Following the first demonstration, a number of changes were made in the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar. As a first stage, the number of S-70 BLACK HAWKs to take part in the show was increased to two. Preparations then began for the planning of demonstrations in such a way that the two helicopters could fly in synchronisation with each other. Secondly, it was decided that the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar flight team would wear black flight suits to distinguish themselves from the green flight suits of gendarmerie pilots. In addition, a patch and a cap was designed for the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar. Regarding the appearance of helicopters, a number of arrangements were made to differentiate the S-70 BLACK HAWKs of the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar team from other helicopters in the inventory of the General Command of Gendarmerie. On the sliding cabin entrance doors on either side of the helicopters, “Gendarmerie” was written in large font, and the windows on these sliding doors were decorated with the Turkish flag. Furthermore, “Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar” was written under the fuselage of the helicopters in such a way that it can be easily read by spectators. Written in white on the monochrome dark green fuselage of the S-70 BLACK HAWKs, these inscriptions increase the awareness of helicopters, both when parked and during air shows. The arrangements made to the appearance of helicopters were limited to these, as the helicopters continue to carry out active duties.
First Public Show
The first public demonstration of Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar took place at the Sivrihisar Air Show held in Eskişehir on 14–15 September, 2019. The Gendarmerie pilots, who made their helicopters dance in the air for two days, and engaged in close-quarter synchronised flight, as if they were a single helicopter, won the appreciation of the spectators with their demonstration manoeuvres. Following their performance, Gendarmerie Pilot Brigadier General Ali Doğan, Head of Gendarmerie Aviation, congratulated the team members, and Gendarmerie Pilot Colonel Mustafa Tekindor in particular, as the team leader of the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar. Despite the fact that only months have passed since its establishment, the demonstration was an outstanding success, and served to highlight how effective and important preparation and planning is in aviation.
The next stop for Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar was TEKNOFEST Istanbul’19, which was held at Istanbul Atatürk Airport on 17–22 September. The Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar team put on many challenging displays during the six-day festival. The Gendarmerie pilots livened the atmosphere of TEKNOFEST Istanbul, as an event that brought together aviation enthusiasts from all walks of who watched the displays with interest.
Every Show Planned to the Finest Detail
The Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar have two pilots and one technician on each helicopter. Pilots are selected for the team on the basis of their experience and skills. The pilots that fly the helicopters are selected from among colonels, lieutenant colonels and majors. While senior pilots are required to have completed some 5,000 flying hours, co-pilots are required to have completed approximately 3,000 flying hours. Before each demonstration, the pilots meet to plan the performance to the finest detail. During these meetings, the manoeuvres to be made in each physical category under various weather conditions are reviewed. The demonstrations are performed by senior pilots, while the co-pilots carefully monitor each stage of the manoeuvre and provide warnings the senior pilot when necessary. This ensures that the manoeuvre is performed correctly and in accordance with the determined scenario.
Gendarmerie Pilots Leave Nobody Behind
The first force command to use the S-70 BLACK HAWK helicopter in Turkey was the General Command of Gendarmerie. With the introduction of the first helicopter into the inventory in 1988, the S-70 BLACK HAWK adventure of the gendarmerie pilots began. In their routine flight missions, gendarmerie pilots, who have been flying these helicopters successfully in various missions since 1988, perform far more dangerous manoeuvres than in demonstration flights, requiring great attention and concentration. In the 1990s, it was gendarmerie pilots who flew an S-70 BLACK HAWK helicopter inverted, even though Sikorsky engineers said it was not possible. The photograph of the S-70 BLACK HAWK flying inverted went down in global aviation history, and was used subsequently by Sikorsky in advertising material. In July 2018, 12 people, mostly children, were caught on a small islet after the water level of the Tigris River rose unexpectedly, and a rescue operation was launched during which gendarmerie pilots landed an S-70 BLACK HAWK on the water and rescued the civilians. The pilot who made this landing is now a member of the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar team. After this rescue operation, Sikorsky presented the pilots with talent and courage awards. Gendarmerie pilots, who now have a 51-year history, started out by saying “We will not leave anybody behind!”, and now take the pride in being able to say “We didn’t leave anybody behind!”
There is a busy schedule ahead of the Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar team for the 2020 season. The team makes regular rehearsal flights for the shows they will perform next year, when Jandarma Çelik Kanatlar team will continue to exhibit their skills and perhaps astound audiences abroad for the first time.