MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif -- Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 supported Combat Logistics Battalion 11 during a daytime external lift exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Jan. 7, 2016.
During the exercise, Marines with CLB-11 attach large, steel beams that simulate cargo called high beams, to the aircraft. The high beams attach from slings to the pendants on the aircraft.
“We use high beams for practice but in reality, we pick up Humvees, M777 Howitzers, or packages of MREs; whatever we need to take out,” said Sgt. Randy Burgosbonilla, a crew chief for HMH-465, and a Providence, Rhode Island, native. “We were picking up loads underneath the aircraft by single-point and dual-point slings.”
The Helicopter Support Team with CLB-11 prepares the high beams that are going to be lifted, attaching the slings securely to the weights. On the bottom of the CH-53E are pendants that are used for attaching the slings. The pilots with HMH-465 hover above the high beams and the HST rushes under the helicopter and hooks the slings to the pendants. The pilot then lifts the weight with the aircraft and makes a lap around the landing pad before coming back down, where the HST detach the high beam, and repeat the process again numerous times for accuracy and efficiency.
Marines from both units ensured they were taking the proper safety precautions to conduct the training. The crew chiefs observed the ground Marines from the aircraft while a safety observer watched the Marines from the ground. The pilots cannot see beneath or behind the aircraft; these blind spots create hazards that require the safety observer and crew chiefs to be in place to help prevent accidents.
“I’m in the back telling the pilot where to go and what direction to move in aspect to where the load and the guys are,” said Burgosbonilla, “The pilots can’t see where to go, so we’re telling them what to do.”
Burgosbonilla said the external-lift training is important for the squadron because the CH-53E is one of Marine Corps’ primary aircraft for heavy lifting. Unlike other aircraft used for external lifts, such as the MV-22 Osprey, the CH-53E can lift up to 36,000 pounds. This ability allows the aircraft to transport Humvees, cargo, MREs and other vital equipment necessary during deployments for Marine Corps mission accomplishment.
“As a CH-53E heavy lift-capable helicopter squadron, our mission is to carry heavy stuff, transport troops and cargo, and do externals,” said Burgosbonilla. “We have to be ready at all times.”