Drum flying new Blackhawk over upstate for training
Fort Drum pilots are out training with some brand new choppers. The Blackhawk has gotten some serious upgrades and if you live anywhere in upstate New York, you've probably seen a few flying over your house. They can get pretty low and are loud. But as our Brian Dwyer reports, the pilots say the training not only helps them, but everyone else as well.
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FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- It's the UH-60M, MIKE model. Whether you live in Watertown, Potsdam, Oswego, even Syracuse and Buffalo, they've been flying overhead the past few weeks.
"We utilize all that training area obviously, to try and simulate as much as we can the type of operations we're going to conduct if we get a call to answer our nation's needs," 10th Combat Aviation Brigade Executive Officer Lt. Col. Michael McFadden said.
The pilots are making stops at airports all across the state, saying they're trying their best to not disrupt people and homes but that sometimes those stops just have to be in populated areas for the training to be effective.
"Our mission is to train and deploy to anywhere in the world in support of civil and military operations. You as the taxpayers expect that out of us and we as the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade are going to meet those expectations," Lt. Col. McFadden said.
"The training time here at home is five weeks," CW3 David Van Vechten, a UH-60M pilot said. "If we were to go to Fort Rucker, it's a six week course. In order for us to minimize time away from our families during our short dwell time in between deployments, we conduct training on station. It saves the Army and taxpayers money allowing us to train at home and saves us time away from family."
And with a new model, there is beefed up training.
"To practice approaches," Lt. Col. McFadden said. "To practice instrument approaches. To practice take offs and landings."
And the pilots at Drum say while it will take a little time to get used to the new system, the technology in these things is just incredible.
"It is an auto pilot system that allows the pilots to focus on other mission parameters such as calculating fuel, restricted operating zones known as ROZ's while not having to worry about maintaining aircraft control because the aircraft will do that for us," CW3 Van Vechten said.
Besides basically flying itself, although the pilots do stress the need to always know what it's doing, the MIKE comes with a better blade, more powerful engine and a digital cockpit, with exact gauges and updated communication technology.
"It looks like a Blackhawk from the outside. It still feels like a Blackhawk when I fly it. But it's the computer inside that's different," CW3 Van Vechten added.
Officials say even after the major rush of training ends in a few weeks, people could still notice the planes flying overhead - since training is always an ongoing processes.