By Chuck Cannon, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerApril 20, 2009
FORT POLK, La. -- Five Fort Polk Soldiers made history April 8, when they became the first on post to jump from a Lakota Light Utility Aircraft.
The Lakota LUH 72A is a commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft that is replacing the Army's aging OH-58 and UH-1 helicopters, said Maj. Kevin McHugh, executive officer for the 5th Aviation Battalion (Provisional).
"The Lakota was originally designed for use by Homeland Security," McHugh said. "It's leaps and bounds beyond what we currently have."
McHugh said the Lakota is user-friendly. "It's fuel efficient and has a low noise signature," he said. "And now we know Soldiers can parachute from them."
The high altitude, low open jump was the third successful jump from a Lakota. The first took place at the Army's testing center at Yuma Proving Grounds. Soldiers with the flight detachment at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y, made the second jump in March.
"This was the first parachute drop from a Lakota at the Joint Readiness Training Center," McHugh said. "It marks a new era for us. We've done a lot of firsts and the rest of the Army has followed suit. Other units routinely call us to see what we did and how we did it."
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacob Schexnayder piloted the jump aircraft. He said important data was compiled during the jump.
"We had no problem at all with the load or with the way the aircraft handled when the Soldiers exited," he said. "It (the Lakota) performed perfectly. This is more than a typical military aircraft. It can do a lot of things a strictly military aircraft can't do."
Schexnayder said the Lakota has a range of about 350 miles. "That's almost 100 more than UH60s," he said. "It will pay off in medevac operations."
McHugh said overall, the first jump from a Lakota on Fort Polk was a success.
"All jumpers landed safely," he said. "We look forward to follow-on iterations with the Lakota's now proven capabilities at JRTC."