By Kathy Eastwood, West Point Public AffairsAugust 24, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 24, 2011) -- The 2nd Aviation Detachment located at Stewart Air Base in New Windsor conducted training in night vision flying Aug. 15 with the UH-72A Lakota helicopters, which are equipped with night vision goggle-compatible cockpits.
The detachment supports West Point by transporting distinguished visitors hosted by West Point senior leadership, provides support to the cadet parachute team and assists cadets in academic instruction in both airplanes and helicopters.
"The night vision goggle training allows the 2nd Avn. Det. to be more relevant," Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Nailor, 2nd Avn. Det. commander, said. "Every Lakota pilot who comes out of the Army is qualified to fly with NVGs and goes through retraining."
Nailor said night vision training allows the 2nd Avn. Det. to fly VIPs at night when necessary, such as to or from Washington D.C.
"In these economic times with budget concerns, we need to do more with less," Nailor said. "In addition to transporting VIPs, we can help to locate cadets who get lost in field training."
In February, two West Point cadets attempting to rappel Storm King Mountain became stranded and needed rescue off an 18 inch-wide ledge. There were no first responders with night vision training in the vicinity who could help in what ended up to be a lengthy and dangerous rescue attempt involving several local firemen, ambulances and police officers.
Although the New York State Police Aviation Unit shares a building with the 2nd Avn. Det. and is trained in night vision, they did not have current hoist training that could assist in the rescue. They were able to locate the cadets using night vision goggles who were eventually rescued by a New York City Police rescue helicopter.
"The proposal for night vision training began with Lt. Gen. David Huntoon Jr., the Superintendent of West Point, after that incident. This will allow us to locate those needing help and communicate to first responders as to their location," Nailor explained.
Although the 2nd Avn. Det. is not in the rescue business, primarily because they do not have a hoist, the 2nd Avn. Det. will be able to aid in rescue attempts.
Flying a helicopter with NVGs distorts vision somewhat, and pilots need to learn a different way of seeing, which is the reason for the training.
"You don't have peripheral vision capability, no color except green, distance perception is distorted and there's a limited field of vision," Nailor said. "It's like looking at an old computer that had green screens. Pilots need training to be able to compensate for the limited vision such as in taking off, landing and flying low."