REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center's Aviation Development Directorate EH-60L BlackHawk was successfully loaded on a C-17 recently and is en route to Germany and Switzerland to take part in the month-long European NATO Degraded Visual Environment Flight Trials Event.

The aircraft departed Moffett Field, Calif., remained overnight at Pease Air Force Base, N.H. and continued to Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany.

As part of the trial, ADD was required to bring their own aircraft, a challenge which had never been accepted by the team. "Logistically it was a big undertaking for a mostly civilian organization," said Maj. Zachariah Morford, Flight Projects Branch Chief for the Aeroflightdynamics Directorate. "We had never air loaded a helicopter from our unit. This was a first for us. Without any experienced staff or equipment, this task required help from several other entities."

AMRDEC's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate assisted by providing hazardous materials support. 55th Aerial Port Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. provided preload planning and 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard co-located at Moffett Field provided planning and material support.

In order to fit the BlackHawk on the C-17, it had to be prepared for air load. This involved removing the blades and tail rotor, which required special kits that were supplied by the California Air National Guard from Stockton, Calif., who also provided a tear down and load team. Joint inspection on helicopter and cargo and load team was supplied by the 618th Air Operations Center who tasked their subordinate unit, the 821st Contingency Response Group from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

"This event was the culmination of months of effort and planning. All the teams were doing little parts not knowing what the others were doing, but it all came together at the end," said Morford. Within two hours everything was loaded and ready for take-off.

"Shipping our UH-60 to Germany for the NATO flight trials was a tremendous effort that required detailed planning from the Aviation Development Directorate team at Moffett Field and collaboration between the active Air Force, Air Force Reserve, active Army and the California Army National Guard," said Maj. Joe Minor, Program Manager, Experimental Test Pilot Research, Development and Engineering Command Rotorcraft DVE-M AMRDEC ADD. "All of the members of the team came together to complete the mission resulting in the safe and successful movement of the ADD UH-60 to Germany."

Testing will take place this month. In Germany, the testing will focus on rain and fog, while the Switzerland test will focus on snow and whiteout environments. Test pilots and engineers will gather research data regarding integrated flight control, pilot cueing and sensor technologies.

Operations in DVE are the primary contributing factor to most Army aviation mishaps over the last decade. Eighty percent of rotorcraft losses in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to "combat non-hostile or non-combat factors," including DVE, according to U.S. Army Program Executive Office Aviation officials.

While AMRDEC ADD leads the program, other teams in the effort include: AMRDEC's AATD and Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, Army Research Laboratory, U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Lab and U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.

---

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.