Wash. vocational students get a close look at a Black Hawk

By CHERYL SCHWEIZER | The Columbia (Wash.) Basin Herald | Published: January 15, 2014

MOSES LAKE, Wash — While in class the link between training, even vocational training, and a career, let alone the career options, can be hard to spot. The Black Hawk helicopter that vocational students at Big Bend Community College got to examine Monday afternoon was an illustration of some of those possibilities.

The Black Hawk is operated by the Washington Army National Guard.

The vocational program has an aviation maintenance program, but there's also auto maintenance and welding, among others. Dan Moore, one of the aviation maintenance instructors, said the chopper allowed students to get an idea what might be available out there, and not just for aviation maintenance students.

"It's job opportunities," he said. Maintenance workers are needed in military and civil aviation, but those operations also need welders and auto mechanics, Moore said.

"It's probably harder to maintain them than it is to fly them," pilot Raymond Leonard said. The Black Hawk has been part of the U.S. military fleet since the 1970s; the chopper that landed in Moses Lake was built in 1979. "Kind of a testament to National Guard maintenance," Leonard said.

The Washington unit was one that responded to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, rescuing people stranded by flooding. The Black Hawks fight forest fires, and it can get challenging along the fire lines, what with the fire-caused turbulence, Leonard said.

One method used to fight fires is to fill a bucket carried under the helicopter at a nearby lake or river. "This is a pretty capable aircraft," maneuvering in turbulent air and tight spaces, Leonard said, although that bucket is pretty heavy when it's full of water. Occasionally they are used in search and rescue operations, he said.

Leonard is a veteran of the Iraq war; Black Hawks aren't really the right aircraft for Afghanistan, he said.


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