Photo Information

Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Training Squadron 302 wait aboard a CH-53E Super Stallion for signals from a Combat Logistics Battalion 6, Transportation Support Battalion, landing support specialist, indicating it is safe to take off with the cargo, during external lifts at landing zone Phoenix, Camp Davis, North Carolina, April 6, 2016. The purpose of external lifts is to transport larger amounts of supplies and heavy gear where other ground vehicles can’t access. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Fiala/Released.)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Fiala

The next step; student pilots conduct external lifts

6 Apr 2016 | Lance Cpl. Aaron Fiala Marine Corps Air Station New River

Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Training Squadron 302 and Combat Logistics Battalion 6, Transportation Support Battalion, conducted external lifts at landing zone Phoenix, Camp Davis April 6.

The pilots put their abilities to the test during external lifts. They applied their knowledge and experience from prior flights, simulator flights and many classroom hours to maneuver the CH-53E Super Stallion in a precision hover above landing support specialists who attached the cargo to the helicopter.

“The Marines have typically spent about 2 years in flight school and about 3 months here preparing to get to this point,” said Capt. Peter Sherick, a pilot with the unit. “It takes a lot of time and training just to get where we are.”

The CH-53E was ground-guided to the cargo-a giant, metal beam-with four ropes attached. The ropes paired together and attached to a rig in the aircraft by either one or two connectors.

Depending on the cargo being transported, the helicopter can improve the stability of the cargo by distributing the weight across two connectors on the craft. The pilots conducted several of each lift to ensure confidence in their abilities.

Each landing support specialist held a specific job they practiced as well. Two Marines attached the cargo, one Marine grounded the static electricity from the CH-53E and another two helped guide and watched for safety concerns.

“I would say the training that the pilots, copilots and crew chiefs receive here is probably the most valuable and important tool they get while they’re here,” said Sherick. “It’s the most challenging thing we do because it gives us the capability to move anything to anywhere from anywhere. It requires a lot of practice with a precision hover to do this safely.”

The CH-53E is capable of carrying over 70,000 pounds in total weight, making it an asset to the Marine Corps because it can carry other aircraft, combat supplies, ground troops, and more heavy cargo wherever the mission needs it, explained 1st Lt. Josh Wanderscheid, a student pilot with the unit. Marines on a forward operating base can request more supplies or artillery equipment to be flown to their positions by pilots using this technique.

“Conducting this training is critical to us becoming good copilots,” Wandersheid said.

The Marines on the ground and the crew chiefs on the aircraft acted as guides for the pilot. The crew chiefs received visual communication from the Marines below and relayed that information back to the pilots. Communication was constant between everyone involved in this training.

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