A UH-72B Lakota helicopter belonging to the Nevada Army Guard flies over the Las Vegas Strip on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. Studenica, US Army National Guard, ride a UH-72B Lakota helicopter, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, around the Red Rock Canyon area, while another UH- 72B Lakota, right. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal) A UH-72B Lakota helicopter belonging to the Nevada Army Guard flies over Red Rock Canyon on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. National Guard UH-72B Lakota, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevin Keeler, left, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tad Casebolt prepare to take off at North Las Vegas Airport, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in North Las Vegas. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal) The Las Vegas Strip as seen from a UH-72B Lakota helicopter Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Las Vegas. (Chitose Suzuki / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada National Guard pilots took to the skies Tuesday to demonstrate two new helicopters that will enhance rescue capabilities, wildfire prevention and disaster response missions.
Nevada was one of nine states that received US Department of Defense UH-72B Lakota helicopters, each costing $8 million.
In a demo flight for local media, the pilots flew over the mountainous terrain of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to test their skills. Pilots of the new Lakota helicopters are likely to encounter this type of terrain on their missions.
According to a press release, helicopters will be able to report for search and rescue missions in almost any local environment, using a forklift and a medical first responder. The helicopters are also capable of suspending cargo weighing more than eight thousand pounds by means of a long line hanging from the bottom of the helicopter. In addition, it is capable of aerial surveillance with infrared cameras that will soon be used on the US-Mexico border. Also, with the additional cabin space the helicopter can carry nine people.
Of the approximately 3,400 soldiers in the Nevada National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joel Oscarson is one of the few who was born and raised in Las Vegas. Oscarson, the owner of Aspen Insulation, works part-time as a helicopter pilot for the National Guard.
“For me, the most important thing is that I can serve my community while I’m in this,” says Oscarsson, who enlisted in the National Guard about 15 years ago.
National Guard pilots must work their normal schedule plus additional flight hours. Oscarson said helicopter pilots are required to fly less, about 100 hours, than airline pilots because planes have longer flight times.
Capable of traveling more than 400 miles before needing to refuel, the new Lakota helicopters are more powerful than their UH-72A Lakota counterparts, making it easier to board the aircraft on search missions. According to crew chief Sergeant Michael Knight, the added stability of the five-bladed main rotor kept the cabin from moving too much.
The two new helicopters are slated to reside in Las Vegas, as it is considered one of nine states with a mountainous environment. Oscarson said the army maintains combat helicopters such as the Black Hawk and Chinook in northern Nevada, while it has light utility helicopters in southern Nevada.
Combat helicopters are used to help fight fires because of their greater capability, but they burn a lot of fuel and are too large for urban environments.
“Historically we’ve had Katrina, earthquakes, Haiti and all these different non-war disasters where it’s really designed to help in these situations,” Oscarsson said.
B/C Company, 3rd Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, based in North Las Vegas, will maintain and operate the helicopters.