RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You could hear the helicopters buzzing before they came into sight Saturday afternoon.
A crowd gathered in Morrisville and looked up at the North Carolina Army National Guard’s newest version of the Apache Helicopter hovering in the sky.
“The AH-64E Version 6 aircraft is the most sophisticated, complex, modern aircraft in the army inventory,” said Lt. Col. James Bond.
Bond, the Battalion Commander of the 1-130th Attack Battalion, joined several others for an acceptance ceremony at the North Carolina National Guard Army Aviation Flight Facility #1 in Morrisville.
The 1-130th Attack Battalion is the second Army National Guard unit to introduce the new copter.
“It’s a huge leap of what we transition from,” Bond said.
Speakers with the North Carolina Army National Guard said the Apache helicopters bring multiple enhancements to the aircraft’s navigation, weapon, and communication system.
“This particular aircraft allows us to, what we refer to, fly in instrument meteorological conditions… so we fly in the clouds,” Bond said. “That’s something we haven’t been able to do in the past.”
During the ceremony, speakers also noted the recent helicopter crashes across the country. The crowd also took a moment of silence for two members of North Carolina National Guard who died after an Apache helicopter crash in May of 2005. The crash happened near the Cape Fear River.
Brigadier General Jeffrey Copeland, who also spoke during the ceremony, said, “Commanders and leaders at all levels are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our most precious resource — and that’s our personnel.”
With the new enhancements, Bond said their aviators are already going through intense training.
“We go through a very intense mission approval process. Even before we go out and get in the aircraft, we’re talking with our instructor pilots, we’re talking with our senior aviators walking through the briefing and approval process.” Bond added, “We’re making sure that when these aircraft take off with our personnel inside, that they’re coming back safely.”
Bond said the unit is now training with 10 of the new helicopters that are currently at the site. He said the North Carolina Army National Guard will have a total of 24 by mid-July.
“When the public sees us up in the air, we’re part of your local community, we’re actually in your community. And when you see us, we’re learning and building our proficiency level, so ultimately we can win our nation wars.”