FORT RUCKER, Ala. — Initial Entry Rotary Wing Class 21-21 notched their spot in Army aviation history by being the first class to solo in the UH-72 Lakota helicopter.
"We are having the first six students of Class 21-21, which is 56 students, solo today," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bradley J. Renneke, chief of standards and senior warrant adviser at Cairns Army Airfield for the 1st Battalion, 223d Aviation Regiment, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence. "They solo three patterns each, takeoff, fly to a hover, and then pass it back to their instructor pilot."
While the first six students completed their solos on Sept. 11, 2021, the class as a whole finished on Sept. 16.
"This has not been done since Oct 2020 in the TH-67, and traditionally it's been in the TH-55 and UH-1," said Renneke.
With this milestone complete, the Army plans to bring back cross-country solos in the Lakota during a warfighting skills phase of training.
"Soloing the aircraft is a huge trust-building exercise for the students themselves, and for the instructors, it validates our instruction," said Renneke.
It's an accomplishment notable not only for the Army but for the individual pilots.
"I absolutely remember my first solo" at 16 flight hours, said Renneke - 2,700 hours later. "It was done at the same stage field, in a TH-67, with Mr. Humberto Dominguez, and we successfully operated three traffic patterns each."
Video of the flights can be viewed on the USAACE YouTube channel.