Story by Spc. Roland Hale (credit: US Armed Forces)
The Army’s newest medevac helicopter is seeing action in Iraq with an aviation company from the Vermont National Guard. C Company of the 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment deployed this November with a dozen HH-60M helicopters, the latest medical variant of the Army’s Black Hawk airframe. The unit is the first to receive the HH-60M and is serving as a test-bed for the aircraft. In addition to their medevac mission, the unit’s crews are working with representatives from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to work through the kinks of the aircraft’s new systems. It is already popular with the unit’s crew members. “It’s like going from a ’67 Buick to jumping into a brand new Cadillac,” said Sgt. David Diminico, an HH-60M crewmember.
Credit: Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, 12/23/10
- The first and third photos show an HH-60M medevac helicopter deployed to Iraq spinning up on Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 21.
- The second photo shows a crew chief serving in Iraq looking out of the HH-60M medevac helicopter’s new crew window. The sealed bubble window is used to keep a clean environment inside the helicopter when transporting patients. The HH-60M is being used for the first time here by C Company of the 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment.
The aircraft features more powerful engines, improved rotor blades, electronic instruments, digital displays, and an autopilot feature. It also has new features that enhance its medical mission. These features include an integrated EKG machine, an oxygen generator, electronically controlled litters, an infrared system that can locate patients by their body heat, and a built-in, external hoist. “There’s a lot of the stuff built into this aircraft that we used to have to carry out to the aircraft,” said Diminico. “We’ve got everything we need in one aircraft, and we can get off of the ground pretty quick.”
And that means the world to medevac crews, he said. On an urgent call, crews must take off in under 15 minutes; every minute carrying and assembling gear adds to that time. With the HH-60M, C Company recently made a mission in under seven minutes.“When you’re talking about our flight medics getting there, 30 seconds can make a huge difference,” said Diminico.
In addition to its new systems, the HH-60M boasts several aesthetic, yet functional improvements. The aircraft’s digital-age look extends from the cockpit to the crew area, setting the HH-60M apart from some of its more rugged looking predecessors. The crew chiefs’ seats have moved to the very back of the aircraft, making room for up to six patients and a myriad of technological gadgets. The crew can easily access litters and other medical equipment from their seats. From the outside, one of the more noticeable differences is the absence of open crew chief windows. The crews now use plastic bubbles protruding from the aircraft’s doors. The sealed windows help the crews maintain a sterile environment, said Diminico. The HH-60M will be put to use with the company for the next year. The Army will continue to field the HH-60M to its fleet, incorporating lessons learned from the company’s deployment.