After flying the P-3C Orion aircraft for over 50 years, Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 has become the third West Coast maritime squadron to transition to the P-8A Poseidon.
Upon completing their squadron’s, Sundown P-3C deployment last fall, they traded in their P-3C aircraft for their own set of Boeing P-8A Poseidons and completed their safe for flight inspection, led by Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10, May 17.
The training consisted of time spent at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Washington and NAS Jacksonville. During this transition, the squadron underwent roughly 200 flight events, tallying almost 1,000 flight hours and 550 simulator events, encompassing 2,300 hours.
Capt. Andrew Miller, the P-8 West Coast Fleet Integration Team officer-in-charge, along with Lt. Cmdr. Matt Olson, assistant officer-in- charge, ensured VP-9’s transition was properly organized and executed with support from 60 aircrew instructors and maintenance support personnel from NAS Jacksonville’s VP-30.
“As the officer in charge of the west coast transition efforts, I could not be more proud of the focus and energy of the VP-30 personnel who ensured that the highest quality of training was provided to VP-9,” Miller said.
“This team handled themselves to the highest professional standards and have set a solid foundation for the VP-9 “Golden Eagles” as they commence their operations as the Navy’s newest P-8 squadron.”
At the beginning of transition, the pilots, naval flight officers, acoustic warfare operators, and electronic warfare operators learn to operate the P-8A separately.
During the last phase, Tactics Phase, crew members put their individual skills together to perform as one cohesive team.
This final period pushed crews to execute 80 flights and 110 simulator based training events across all aircrew tracks over an eight-week period.
“It’s always tough being away from family, but it was great to get back to Jacksonville to see old friends and visit some of my favorite places from my time here as a student at VP-30,” said Lt. Gary Belaga, VP-9 naval flight officer.
As VP-9 and VP-30 shuffled back and forth, it provided an opportunity for some of the VP-30 instructors to return to a familiar duty station or experience a new type of flying environment that is much different than what many individuals are used to.
Lt. Cory Wienckowski, a VP-30 instructor pilot, shared his thoughts on returning to an old duty station.
“I really enjoyed my time in Whidbey Island at VP-40. There’s nothing quite like the Pacific Northwest and everything it has to offer. The outdoor life is second to none and flying around on a clear day is quite majestic,” said Wienckowski.
According to Wienckowski, the Pacific Northwest holds a beauty of its own.
However, Whidbey Island also presented a whole new set of challenges while flying the P-8A. Mountainous terrain, snow and heavy fog are all things the VP-30 instructors had to take into account to keep their skills sharp.
Not only does the transition involve aircrew, but a maintenance team as well.
In order for a maritime squadron to provide on-station support around the world, they need a properly qualified maintenance team to keep the jets up and running.
“In conjunction with the flights, the VP-9 maintenance team continued receiving hands on training on P-8 maintenance, and achieved all of the required qualifications prior to their safe for flight inspection,” Miller said.
VP-9 is the ninth maritime squadron to transition from the P-3C Orion to the P-8A Poseidon.
“Overall, VP-30 did a great job trying to make the transition as smooth as possible,” Belaga said. “While there are always unforeseen road blocks and curveballs, the instructors always seemed to have a plan and did their best to help us learn the new systems and procedures of the P-8A.”