News: License to fly: Pegasus pilots take off with the 82d CAB transition to UH-60Ms
Story by Sgt. April Campbell
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Filled with fluorescent light, the narrow, windowless classroom seemed a stark contrast to the final exam the students and instructors were studying for early Friday evening. After thirty minutes the classroom began to empty as groups of three departed for their less confining exam rooms.
For the next three and half hours, their test results would literally be up in the air, as the students conducted their final evaluation flight in the new version of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, the UH-60M.
The 16 pilots, from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, had been training at Simmons Army Airfield with the United States Army Aviation Logistics School instructor pilots since Aug. 16.
Their graduation the following Monday, Sept. 20, marked the first milestone of the Pegasus Brigade’s path to becoming the Army’s combat aviation brigade to most fully convert from the older UH-60L to the much evolved UH-60M.
“While it can be difficult to change organizational inertia after 8 years of combat operations, the professionals within this brigade have always demonstrated the capacity to grow and change to meet emerging challenges, and this transformation will be no different.” said Lt. Col. Carey Wagen, the commander for the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd CAB.
One of the 16 pilots who graduated Monday, Chief Warrant Officer Craig Wheeler, the brigade standardization pilot for the 82nd CAB, will help oversee the transition.
“While a few combat aviation brigades have integrated the mike model into one or two companies, the 82nd CAB will be the first to transition to all the available UH-60 assets, including four companies throughout the brigade,” said Wheeler, a Stamford, Conn., native.
One of the upgraded features of the “mike model” is the onboard maps system. In addition to other, more tactical capabilities, the onboard maps give the pilots similar advantages to those the GPS gives the common motorist.
“While the pilot still has to be able to interpret the information, [the map system] saves time and reduces the pilot workload during quick mission changes,” said Chief Warrant Officer Eric Petricka, who serves as a UH-60 instructor pilot with the 2-82nd AHB.
Petricka, of Black Mountain, N.C., also graduated from the course Monday and will continue to serve as an instructor pilot, helping to train other pilots throughout the brigade.
Another upgraded feature of the UH-60M is the flight director, which works similarly to an autopilot.
“During a rescue mission,” Wheeler said, “the flight director will hold a hover, greatly reducing the pilots’ workload so the pilots can focus on rescuing those on the ground.”
In addition to the technological benefits of the new features the UH-60M offers, the units flying it will also reap the benefits of having equipment that requires less upkeep due to overall wear and tear.
“Getting brand new helicopters will definitely help our maintenance situation in future deployments,” said Maj. David Bresser, a Covington, Ky., native who serves as a UH-60 pilot and the executive officer for the 2-82nd AHB.
The All-American CAB should be reaping all of these benefits of the new Blackhawk by April 2011, when they are scheduled to have almost 50 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, including the HH60M, or medical evacuation series, as well as nearly 150 UH-60M qualified pilots on hand throughout the brigade.
This work, License to fly: Pegasus pilots take off with the 82d CAB transition to UH-60Ms, by SSG April Campbell, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.