News: Black Hawk: Dawn to dusk with the aviators of Alpha Company
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA — Dawn breaks over Contingency Operating Base Basra, and the pilots and crew members of "A" Company, 1st Battalion, 189th Regiment are already getting their birds ready for the day. The UH-60 Black Hawk, a signature of the Army since 1987, is a finicky machine, and a lot of work must be done before it can fly.
Chief Warrant Officer Mathew Rowley, describes a typical day in the life of a Black Hawk crew, and it's going to be a long day.
Rowley wakes up by 4 a.m. Half an hour later, after a shave and a shower, it's time to take the bus to the flight line.
By 4:45 a.m., the crew is getting the bird ready. The lead pilot plans out the day's route, while the copilot and crewmembers double-check that none the helicopter's thousands of moving parts have moved in the night.
"Maintenance is always an ongoing thing," said Rowley, a pilot with "A" Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 189th Regiment. "We go through very rigorous checks."
Next, it's time for the briefing; time to take notes. The crew gets their mission for the day: what they have to look forward to and what they have to look out for.
After both the aircraft and the gear are ready, it's time for another briefing at 6:30 a. m., this time amongst each crew to discuss any possible issues with the bird.
"We talk about the aircraft," said Rowley, a native of Helena, Mont. "If there are any discrepancies, issues with radios, issues with fluid levels,"
Showtime is 7:45 a.m. Once the briefing is done and the aircraft is ready, the crew piles into the aircraft, starts the engines and hops onto the tarmac. It's simply a matter of waiting for passengers now.
"We'll sit there on the radio and wait for our customers," said Rowley. "Once they come in, we start the engines and go through all our checks and take off."
"Right at the 3-hour mark we should be taking off," Rowley said. "Our take-off times are always rigid. We have very specific itinerary. We try very hard to be early."
The rest of the day is spent picking-up, dropping-off and waiting for passengers. It's typical, Rowley said, for a crew to fly up to Talil Air Force Base, west to Contingency Operating Site Endeavor, north to COS Echo, back to Endeavor, back to Echo, back to Endeavor, back to Talil and then finally back to Basra.
Flights are usually brief between bases, Rowley said. However, flights can occasionally last up to seven and a half hours, and a full shift can go twice that. Despite this, he said they can always find something to do.
"We don't get bored," said Rowley. "A lot of times we'll just have conversations with each other - a lot of teasing."
After the crew is home and the flight is over, it's time for them to check the aircraft one more time, wash the windows, attach the nose cover, clean off the struts and tie down the blades.
Once that's done, the lead pilot enters the flight into the logbook, and it's time to rest and recover, for tomorrow will be another day.
Date Posted:01.07.2010 01:14
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