US Army National Training Center Alpha Company, 2916th Aviation Battalion handed over Lakota helicopters to contractors for future training at Fort Rucker. Company will remain with Black Hawks
US Army, July 22, 2015 - BARSTOW, Calif. - Members of Alpha Company, 2916th Aviation Battalion with the U.S. Army's National Training Center, Fort Irwin, stationed at Barstow-Daggett Airport, handed over a Lakota helicopter (LUH-72A) to contractors in Woodland, Calif., July 13. Several Alpha Company soldiers live aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif.
The hand-off was part of an ongoing push to eventually move Lakotas to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala.
“(They will) be the new primary training aircraft for flight school students while they are first learning how to fly helicopters,” said Capt. Adam Kennedy, Alpha Company’s commanding officer.
The Lakotas will be worked on by a series of contractors to make necessary modifications for their new role as training helicopters.
Two crews flew that day in separate helicopters, so that upon dropping off the Lakota everyone had a ride back home. In the Lakota, Capt. Kennedy and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Greg Spalding were pilots and Sgt. James Bailey was crew chief.
The “chase bird,” a Black Hawk helicopter (UH-60A+) flew in formation with the Lakota, piloted by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nathaniel Knutson and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Skopek, with Spc. Kevin Bowers as the crew chief.
Originally, Alpha Company had 10 Lakota aircraft assigned to them and are now down to four.
“We will fully divest the remaining Lakotas over the coming months and will turn in our last LUH-72 in November,” explained Kennedy.
In their place, the company now has seven of the Black Hawks, which is good news for the pilots trained to fly them. Perhaps not such good news to the pilots trained to fly the Lakota aircraft. The Lakota is a newer aircraft, with newer technology such as digital instruments and gauges, bigger windows for pilot visibility, and more comfortable seating for passengers. Sgt. Bailey compared them to a newer model BMW car, while he compared the Black Hawk to a 1978 Chevy Suburban. Amongst the pilots was good-natured teasing about which aircraft is superior.
Eurocopter UH-72A Lakota 07-72026 ( US Army Aviation )
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Fort Irwin / Barstow