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Feature story The first MEDEVAC-configured UH-72As are delivered to the National Guard

March 12, 2009

The UH-72A Lakota program has marked a new milestone with its first deliveries of the Light Utility Helicopter in a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) configuration for the U.S. Army National Guard.

The newly-delivered Lakotas carry the National Guard logo on both pilotís doors.

These aircraft are being provided to the District of Columbia National Guard, which marked the Lakota’s arrival in the nation’s capital during a formal ceremony today at the D.C. Armory. 

A total of eight Lakotas will be received by the D.C. National Guard, with these helicopters used in applications that range from homeland security and military support missions to assistance for civil authorities.   Six are to be operated by the 121st Medical Company (Air Ambulance) – replacing UH-1s, and two others will be flown by the 1-224th Aviation Battalion (Security and Support), succeeding OH-58s.

The D.C. National Guard’s UH-72As configured for MEDEVAC carry two stretchers, plus the associated medical equipment and systems.  Two medics are positioned in rear-facing seats behind the pilot and co-pilot. 

While other MEDEVAC-capable Lakotas have been delivered by EADS North America to the Army’s active component since 2006, the D.C. National Guard becomes the country’s initial Guard unit with these aircraft.

The 121st Medical Company’s initial three UH-72As were flown March 5 from the production facility in Columbus, Mississippi to the Washington, D.C. area, and an additional three will be provided next month.   Lakotas for the 1-224th Aviation Battalion will be delivered in 2012 to the D.C. National Guard.

Mounted on the UH-72A’s side-wall are suction equipment, a ventilator and monitors for a patient’s vital signs.

Lt. Col. Maureen E. Bellamy, who is the D.C. National Guard’s State Aviation Officer, said the UH-72A provides significantly improved mission capabilities as well as enhanced operating safety when compared to the aging UH-1s and OH-58s.

“The Lakota’s much more responsive main rotor system gives a very smooth ride and great handling, while the two engines offer redundancy – which is a significant factor when flying over dense urban areas like the District of Columbia, where safe landing areas are not readily available,” Bellamy said.  “The aircraft’s outstanding avionics package allows us to communicate directly with the first responders – law enforcement agencies, fire departments, hospitals and others – something that our old radios did not allow us to do.”

Bellamy said Army aviators are unanimous in their praise for the UH-72A’s glass cockpit and excellent instrument package, which includes an autopilot and dual GPS (one of which is linked to the autopilot).

Another operational plus cited by Bellamy is the UH-72A’s lighter weight and smaller footprint – which allows the rotary-wing aircraft to maneuver in close while producing less rotor wash than larger helicopters.  “It clearly makes operations safer and easier at hospital helipads and anywhere else where the landing zone is small,” she added.

The UH-72Aís rear clamshell doors facilitate patient loading/unloading, even with the rotors turning.

This capability was illustrated by yesterday’s touchdown of the UH-72As behind the D.C. National Guard Armory, which was made on an intersection’s corner while traffic continued to flow just yards away. 

Two Lakotas were flown to the Armory, where they were displayed at today’s official delivery ceremony.  D.C. National Guard personnel used the UH-72A’s blade folding feature to facilitate the aircraft’s entry into the Armory.  The blade folding process took approximately 10 minutes – and Army maintainers said there is a high level of interest in introducing this capability, which is accomplished with the use of a simple blade folding kit provided by Lakota manufacturer American Eurocopter.
 
Both UH-72As displayed at the Armory event were fully equipped for their MEDEVAC role, with two stretches and the associated medical bags, as well as side-wall mounted suction equipment, a ventilator and vital signs monitors.  Two oxygen tanks installed on the inside of helicopter’s rear clamshell doors are supplemented by a cabin bag with additional oxygen.

The D.C. National Guard’s eight UH-72As will be based at Fort Belvoir’s Davison Army Airfield, which is located across the Potomac River in Virginia.  

Of the 345 UH-72As to be acquired by the U.S. Army through 2016, more than 200 of are expected to be fielded for Army National Guard units throughout the United States.  Of this total, approximately 25 percent will be configured for MEDEVAC missions.

> For additional information on the milestone Lakota deliveries to the D.C. National Guard:


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