Photo by Drew Hamilton
Soldiers practice setting up cover while the remaining aircraft depart Space Harbor. The event saw more than 25 helicopters take part in the air assault, a mission that required a lot of coordination and planning. (2017 photo)
The month of October marks the 40th anniversary of the delivery of the first Black Hawk helicopter to the U.S. Army. Here at White Sands Missile Range the Black Hawk UH-60 was only recently introduced in December of 2015. Prior to the UH-60, the UH-1 Huey was the main source of Army Air transportation at WSMR. The UH-1 was soon retired after the UH-60s arrival. The last flight for the UH-1 took place in December of 2016. In 2015 WSMR was set to receive six UH-60s. Currently WSMR has three UH-60As and three UH-60L models.
“The Black Hawk may be 40 years old but the platform has many years to go as a world-class multi-role utility helicopter,” said WSMR Test Center Commander and UH-6O Maintenance Test Pilot Col. Dave Cheney.
Jessy Eismann and Ryan Nowaczck are UH-60 pilots here at WSMR’s Army Air, located at Holloman Air Force Base. Both have been flying the versatile aircraft for nearly 17 years. Cheney was commissioned in the Aviation branch in 1993. Cheney also served as the test officer for the latest version of the UH-60, the UH-60M, or “Mike” model. He participated in a Limited User Test for the new model.
“The UH-60 series of utility helicopters represents one of the largest and most successful aircraft platforms in the Department of Defense,” Cheney said.
He said all services of the Department operate UH-60s in various roles and missions, to include: head of state transportation, anti-submarine, vertical replacement, downed aircrew recovery, fleet security, air assault, armed air support, and medical evacuations which he said is arguably the most significant contribution to survivability on the modern battlefield.
“The fleet size alone indicates how important the Black Hawk is with over 2,100 in the U.S. Army alone, about another thousand UH-60 derivative aircraft in the other services, and a foreign military sales fleet in over 30 countries operating another thousand aircraft,” Cheney said.
The mission for Eismann and Nowacsck is a little different and unique to WSMR, much like everything else.
“We support Army, NASA and contract aerial photography. We have done wildlife herd counts and surveys out on the national monument,” Nowacsck said.
They have even provided assistance in provide dropping parachutists during Bataan Memorial Death March opening ceremony events.
“It’s super capable if you know how to fly it, it will give you exactly what you need. I love that it’s multi-purpose. It can carry patients and sling vehicle cargo. I’ve slung parts and pieces of slashed aircrafts. It’s super versatile. Its ruggedness and capability are all things that attracted me to it,” Eismann said.
The UH-60M has the capability of programming routes for the pilots and can self-maneuver. It has four multi-function display screens, a controller that allows pilots to design flight routes while in flight and integrated controls. The UH-60M entered production in 2007 and saw its first combat deployment in 2010. The UH-60M will gradually replace the older models within the Army.
“The technologies included in the latest versions facilitate high-risk missions that could not be conceived of 40 years ago when the Black Hawk first entered service,” Cheney said.