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Fort Wainwright transport helicopters play vital role in Army, Fairbanks community

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 5:42 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On any given day in Fairbanks, residents can often look in the sky near Fort Wainwright and see helicopters flying around, but what are they doing?

Fort Wainwright is home to three types of Army Helicopters, the Boeing AH-64 Apache — an attack helicopter and two transport helicopters. The Boeing CH-47 Chinook and the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.

The Chinook is a heavy lift helicopter according to 1st Lt. Andrew Schell who flies the Chinooks, the aircraft used for large transports, “So we have a max gross weight of 50,000 pounds which means we can theoretically carry [a] significantly heavier amount than Black Hawks are able to. In addition we can carry 32 passengers so we can do missions that require us to move more and move further.”

He says the helicopter can also fly higher than any other rotary aircraft meaning they can use it for high attitude rescues. These types of rescues are just one way that the Army uses the Chinooks to help communities in Alaska.

“We do the high altitude recovery team doing missions on like Denali, as well as supporting Alaska’s fire support, so in case there is ever a fire mission where we have to put out a massive fire throughout the Tanana Flats area, we can do that as well,” Schell said.

The army also flies the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. Chief Warrant Officer 4, Brandon Dailey, is a Black Hawk pilot and said that the aircraft is used for almost everything.

“Somewhat of a jack of all trades in that it can provide medical support, it can provide general lift support, trooper movement,” Dailey said. He also said that the aircraft can even be equipped with weapons and fly in an attack role.

Like the Chinook, the Army also uses the Black Hawks to directly serve the community. Black Hawks, like Chinooks, also work closely with the Alaska Fire Service in summer to provide fire support. Dailey said that all Black Hawk pilots are trained in doing fire fighting with the helicopters.

Black Hawks also provide medical and rescue support to civilians in Alaska. “The medivac piece that the Black Hawk is capable of conducting. You know, there is something really rewarding about saving someone’s life,” Dailey said.

Having the two different type of transport helicopters stationed at Wainwright allows the Army to successfully complete their mission and also provides life saving services to the Fairbanks community that hosts them.

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