BANGOR, Maine - Maine Army National Guard Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment conducted multi-ship and sling load operations training in Bangor Saturday, Sept. 14.
A multi-ship flight is two or more aircraft flying together in a formation, and sling loading is attaching heavy equipment to the aircraft for transport. Both are necessary tools for today’s military and National Guard objectives.
“Anytime you are flying overseas now, it’s a multi-ship mission,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Willett. “Just for security purposes, if one goes down, you have another one there. For air assault purposes, you want to get the maximum number of troops to the landing zone in the shortest amount of time possible, so you go together, instead of as one.”
Pilots and crew chiefs from the 142nd use training time, such as drill weekend to prepare themselves should they be called upon to serve their state, or country. The 142nd is trained to conduct missions for air assaults, air movement operations, transport, and response to state and local disasters.
They also utilize additional flight training periods throughout the week because of all of the training objectives the flight crews have to meet. Drill periods are typically reserved for training specific tasks and maintaining unit readiness.
“We proceeded to do sling loads, which consisted of hooking up to a 4000 pound block and then flying around for a bit to get used to it, and get comfortable with the weight,” said Willett.“The sling load is used to move equipment or fuel or anything like that from one point to another, through the air, rather than on the ground, a lot quicker, a lot safer.”
First Lt. Peter LaVay said that a number of things have to happen for a successful sling load.
“The flight crews need to make sure that the helicopter has the power to lift the load and that it meets weight and balance requirements,” he said. “We also need to run tests with the cargo hook in the helicopter to make sure it can transport the load. The sling load then has to be hooked up and certified air worthy by the crew chiefs. There is a lot of planning and attention to detail that must be met before we can actually lift the load.”
Sling loads are often called upon to transport heavy equipment to difficult terrain, and quickly. They can also be put into play using bambi buckets, specialized canvas buckets developed to hold between 72 to 2,600 gallons water and attach to helicopters for aerial firefighting in order to response to state and local emergencies.
Willett , who served in the Maine Army National Guard’s 152nd Field Artillery Battalion before it disbanded in 2006, said that he enjoys the camaraderie and teamwork he finds within the aviation unit.
“It’s a great group of guys,” he said. The additional flight periods they have to satisfy in order to stay current means they are working more than just one weekend a month, two weeks a year. “We work hard, we train hard, and we get each other. It’s what happens when you spend a lot of time together.”