NEW ORLEANS - With hurricane season looming and officials preparing for statewide disaster response exercises, the Louisiana National Guard has added four new medical evacuation helicopters to its fleet.
The helicopters, LUH-72A light utility Lakotas, are new multi-mission aircraft that combine operational capability, reliability and affordability, while fulfilling all of the Army's requirements for speed, range, endurance and overall performance.
“Along with our other fleet of helicopters, these LUH-72A’s will be used to provide assistance during emergency situations and when we have to provide disaster response,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Charles Ott, an instructor pilot.
The new Lakota’s high-set main and tail rotor make the medical equipped version an extremely capable evacuation platform because it has rear-loading clamshell doors, an externally mounted rescue hoist and cabin space to accommodate two stretchers and one medical attendant.
They are also well equipped to support high-quality medical care that supports the use of medical-equipment set components including a defibrillator, vital signs monitor, ventilator and suction.
When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck Louisiana in 2005, the LANG’s fleet of disaster response helicopters was a large part of the search and rescue efforts in and around Greater New Orleans.
“Although our UH-60 Black Hawks have proven to be a useful helicopter, the Lakotas are lighter and allow us to maneuver in places where the larger Black Hawks cannot,” Ott said.
“They have been equipped with the newest and latest medical evacuation equipment and will help us be more fully prepared in case we are called like in 2005,” Ott said.
Since most of the pilots in the LANG fly the Black Hawks, about 11 pilots attended the two-week transition training at the Eurocopter facility in Grand Prairie, Texas, to learn to fly the new birds.
“Each type of helicopter is unique, and because these were new to our unit, we had to attend the transition course to learn the aircraft,” Ott said. “Some people think if you know how to fly one helicopter you can fly them all; I wish it was that easy.”
The cockpit and cabin are fitted with a large windscreen and multiple-side windows for the main cabin that provide good visibility for the crew and passengers.
“These are great helicopters for the mission they are intended to serve,” Ott said. “I feel that this new addition to our aviation family will serve its purpose well and be a great asset to us and Louisiana.”
The helicopters are manufactured by American Eurocopter at its production site in Columbus, Miss.