By Polly Mikula
KILLINGTON—On Friday, July 26, a Lakota helicopter and three Vermont Army National Guardsmen landed on the fields behind the Johnson Recreational Pool in Killington. Over a dozen day campers greeted the three Army National Guard pilots.
“Only some of the kids knew that the helicopters were coming to see us,” said camp counselor Jody Lebrun. “There was a lot of excitement when the helicopters circled over and then landed right in front of us.”
The campers were 4-10 years old and were part of the “Not your Average Superhero week” at the Killington Rec Center. Unlike traditional superhero camps, this week campers met local heroes, including, policemen and K-9s, firefighters who shot their water hoses into the trees, military personnel and EMTs who invited kids into the ambulance.
On Friday, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. the kids were delighted to meet three Army National Guardsmen: Sargent Quenneville, Cw4 Labounty and Captain Dubie.
After brief introductions and an overview of the aircraft, the guardsmen invited the kids to ask questions and to explore the aircraft.
Campers eagerly asked a wide variety of questions and learned that: it took only 25 minutes to fly from the Burlington airport to the Killington fields, the helicopter cost $5 million, the Vermont Army National Guard has 10 helicopters (eight are used for medivac, two are for boarder patrol efforts), that it takes about 10 hours of helicopter maintenance for every hour of flying, Lakotas fly 500-18,000 feet high, there is AC on board but that the air temperature is also much cooler at higher altitudes, there are no weapons onboard medical helicopters (even in war zones), Lalkotas can fly about 300 miles on 1,400 pounds of fuel, that the Vermont Army National Guardsmen and helicopters had helped with a search and rescue effort in Killington the day before (when a 15 year old had gotten lost hiking. He was found safe the next day. See related story on page ____), that the helicopter came into the Vermont fleet in 2008 and is expected to last 45-50 years, and that the Lakota is about a third smaller than a Black Hawk (the Lakota can carry 8,000 pounds and cost $5 million, whereas a Black Hawk can carry 24,000 pounds and costs $24 million), among many other fun, interesting and random facts.
The campers also delighted in siting inside the helicopter, buckling up and pretending to fly by pushing buttons, levers and knobs.
The helicopter “has been army-proofed, which is essentially the same as kid-proofed,” one of the guardsmen joked, but they did take extra care to check all the settings before departing.