WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. – Soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard’s Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment, retrieved a new UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and delivered it to the Army Aviation Support Facility in Windsor Locks April 28.
This new airframe completes the conversion of the unit’s five helicopters from the legacy L- model to the most modern M-model.
Army Capt. Andrew Maher, commander of Charlie Company, said most new aviators come out of the schoolhouse trained on this new M-model, so converting the fleet creates a seamless transition from training to operational environments.
While the Army’s newest helicopter pilots come out of training well-versed on the M-model aircraft, the legacy pilots had a big learning curve. To become more familiar with the new airframe, the L-models pilots attend a five-week training course and maintain their certifications with at least 96 hours of flight training every year, including 18 in a flight simulator.
The new helicopter has wider blades for more lift capacity, an auto-pilot feature, a more rigid frame, more crash and electromagnetic protection, more vibration absorption in the seats, a rotor break, and fully digital displays and navigation.
“Everyone loves [the new model],” said Maher. “The upgrades give us more situational awareness, reduce our workload, and allows us to complete more complex missions with less stress.”
The upgrade is more than just a convenience. Since the conversion process began, the unit’s M-model craft have acquired no more than 100 total flight hours, compared to the more than 9,000 hours on the L-models. That reduces required maintenance, allowing the unit to keep more helicopters ready for missions.
The old frames were transferred to other state National Guards and civilian organizations. The Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group in Groton also received one.
The UH-60 Black Hawk has been the primary multi-mission rotary aircraft since Sikorsky developed it in 1978. The new helicopter was constructed at the Sikorsky plant in Stratford, Connecticut, and outfitted with additional modifications at the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center Flight Activity at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.