Monday, March 22, 2010

Helicopter movement

This was an interesting weekend. Last week we were notified to deploy 3 helicopters, plus support and command/control, to Haiti to provide an air mobile asset. (Mission would be movement of distinguished visitors and troops, aerial assessment of damage -- likely important in rainy season -- and medical evacuation.) Haiti is pretty far from Honduras, and sending the helicopters on their own would have taken several days. We requested, and were granted, strategic airlift.

On Saturday, 2 C-17 airplans arrived at Soto Cano Air Base. Saturday's activity was to load the aircraft. One C-17 had to carry 3 UH-60 aircraft. The helicopters had been prepared for the movement by folding the blades and taking off the tail lights (reducing height). A C-17 can hold 3 UH-60 aircraft, but it's really tight.

They load the helicopters by lowering the ramp of the C-17 to be ground level, pushing (with a tractor) the helicopter to the edge of the ramp. Next they attach a winch to the helicopter. If the helicopter is going in forward, then the pilot steers and people guide the rear tire with a tow bar. When the helicopter is backed in (the 2nd one), then a tow bar on the rear wheel is how the helicopter is steered. There's almost no extra room when you have 3 helicopters on the C-17, so it took quite a while to get each helicopter into place. There were several scary moments when the helicopter wasn't going exactly the right way... but by the end of the day, all 3 were on the C-17. It was amazing to watch and I was really proud of our military for the teamwork that took place to get the helicopters to move.

As of today, the helicopters have moved and are operational!

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