Students have eyes opened to career opportunity
ATTICA TWP. — It was a rather unusual site at the Lapeer County Education and Technology Center along N. Lake Pleasant Thursday morning.
Morning session Ed Tech students had just nicely settled in to their classrooms when a thunderous, whooshing noise filled the air outside.
It wasn’t a typical commercial or medical helicopter flying over. Rather it was a gigantic, dual rotor, U.S. Army National Guard Chinook helicopter.
And it landed right in front of the Ed Tech building, on a grassy patch near the parking lot, shortly after 9 a.m.
Having flown over a landing zone at a low altitude and establishing everything was safe to land, pilot Capt. Austin Westmoreland gently lowered the 80-foot-long green bird to the ground flawlessly.
They had circled the area, flying at just 250 feet, to assure everything was in order for a safe touch down.
The Chinook and crew, based out of Selfridge Air Force Base near Mt. Clemens, were guests of U.S. Army National Guard recruiter SFC Richard Arter.
Sgt. Arter is responsible for making contact with potential recruits from throughout Lapeer County and other neighboring schools.
“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for some time and it finally worked out for us,” said Sgt. Arter.
“It’s not something that just happens. There is a lot of planning, on both ends. They (crew) could be called out at any time. Today, it worked out well and the kids are getting an up close look at this beauty and are able to talk to the crew members.”
Despite the cloud cover and threat of rain throughout the morning, more than 500 students were scheduled to visit the beast, able to walk inside and outside the aircraft.
“We get a lot of great questions from some of the students,” said Capt. Westmoreland. “You can tell the ones that are really serious about it (career). They have specific questions. They like to touch different parts and talk with the crew. We all have a specific task to do and the kids have enjoyed talking to us. We certainly enjoy them and feel their excitement.”
SFC Arter is in his eighth year of recruitment work and it’s his first year in Lapeer County.
“I consider the students in this area to be blue collar workers. They want to get their hands dirty, learn how things work and be able to understand the hows and whys. This is a great opportunity for the Ed Tech kids to see this and maybe think about a career with us.”
The recruiter said often times, with events such as Thursday’s, he will follow up with the students and end up with a number of them who want more information or want to pursue a career when they finish high school.
The 31-year-old Capt. Westmoreland, who was Thursday’s Pilot In Command, said while the visit was for the kids, it was also a training mission for his crew.
“We each have a job to do, and we train every day,” he said. “I might be a pilot, but I still need an engineer to help me, as well as the other guys. It’s a training mission from the time we begin out flight plans from Selfridge until we get back.”
Capt. Westmoreland, who began his career with the military after studying business in college, said flight time back to Selfridge is relatively quick, noting it takes about 12 to 15 minutes unless he needs to crank up the jet-fueled engines and felt he could make it back “in under 10 minutes” if he had to.
The aircraft is known as a CH 47-F and there are eight such aircraft stationed at Selfridge.
The 80-foot-long aircraft weighs around 50,000 lbs., carries enough jet fuel for around four hours of flight time and carries a maximum of 30 passengers.
The rotating blades are 30’ long and known as a six-blade Chinook. The aircraft has a maximum speed of 170 knots, or 200 mph and carries 6,000 lbs. of jet fuel on board with another 3,000 lbs. of “internal fuel” for longer trips. It burns 2,500 lbs. of jet fuel per hour.
Capt. Westmoreland, who has flown in overseas missions as well as across the U.S., estimated it cost around $10,000 per hour to operate the aircraft, including preflight work until they return back to the base.
Students, staff and visitors all enjoyed the up-close experience and visiting with the military personnel. Although rain began to fall around mid-morning, there was still plenty of opportunity for photos to be taken and memories to be made. “I’m really glad this worked out,” said SFC Arter. “It was a great morning.”