I've Got Skills: Blackhawk Pilot vs. Air Traffic Controller

An Army Blackhawk Pilot and an Air Traffic Controller spend a day in each other’s shoes and understand the similarities (handbook, phraseology, procedures within towers) between the Army and this civilian job.
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WARRANT OFFICER SAM LOVELL: I'm Warrant Officer Sam Lovell, UH60 Black Hawk pilot in the United States Army.

SHERRY AVERY: I'm Sherry Avery. I'm the air traffic control district manager for the Los Angeles area.

LOVELL: Welcome to I've Got Skills. So my career is-- is in aviation, obviously. I'm a UH60 Black Hawk pilot. And the branch I work in is more or less to support the ground command. We are here as a support element. Oh, flying to me, first of all, means everything. It's how I make my living.

SHERRY AVERY: I'm the actual tower manager at LAX, and I oversee the managers of eight other airports LAX is the big boy of all these nine airports, 1850 operations a day-- that's takeoffs and landings LAX is third busiest airport in the United States.

LOVELL: Good morning I’m Warren officer Sam Lovell welcome to Fort Bliss.

SHERRY AVERY: I’m Sherry Avery—- Hi.

LOVELL: Come on Sherry let me show you around. This is the combat aviation brigade and here you can see we have 40 to 50 Apache helicopters, 40 to 50 Blackhawk helicopters we got 15 Chinooks and around 15 medevac helicopters. Sherry this is the UH 60 Blackhawk helicopter, This is what I fly and it is a utility helicopter.

SHERRY AVERY: It's so organized all those helicopters, all those different kinds, the maintenance going on...

LOVELL: This is Farmer's one of our crew chiefs.

SHERRY AVERY: I liked the way people treated each other. A true caring about each other a team where they back each other up.

LOVELL: In that emergency specialist Farmer knows from memory or knows a checklist of what to do.

SHERRY AVERY: Will function really effectively—

LOVELL: You will never see a Army helicopter fly without two pilots.

SHERRY AVERY: So that’s your back up.

LOVELL: The aircraft has more available, such as more than one engine. It has more than one radio. It has multiple ways that I can carry equipment. And I can carry more than one thing And I'm responsible for all that.

SHERRY AVERY: Using checklists, all four of them crawling all over it. There's a lot of nurturing. There's a lot of mentoring. They are setting themselves up for all kinds of careers in the civilian world with really specific skills.

LOVELL: There is a lot going on up here where a civilian pilot might have one or two tasks we might a lot more going on at the same time.

SHERRY AVERY: Oh, he's a multi-tasker. His attention to detail is great. His professionalism.

LOVELL: I have received an instrument ticket. I have received a multi-engine aircraft rating and-- and a helicopter rating. And it's all transferrable to-- all I have to do is just pay to take the test and it's all transferrable to the outside.

SHERRY AVERY: Air lines can land in no visibility nothing zero zero same handbook, the same phraseology, the same procedures as we do in our tower.

LOVELL: Sherry this is are tower first here you have are flight line if you look over hear in the distance you can see all the helicopters parked and this is where they would take off from. And as a helicopter pilot my relation with ATC begins here.

SHERRY AVERY: I mean you are our bread and butter if no one is flying you don’t need controllers and were all in the safety business really the same mission.

LOVELL: So you think being a helicopter pilot if I ever decide to be ATC will it help me?

SHERRY AVERY: O ya it will you’ll be more patience on the air there is going to be no yelling at pilots or showing any kind of impatience’s at all because you're going to no they need time to do all the things they need to do to land.

LOVELL: Absolutely.

SHERRY AVERY: Well Sam now that you have shown me all about aviation at Fort Bliss let me show you my world aviation at LAX. When I took Sam up in the tower today, I was excited 'cause he was interested in the equipment. And I said, "Oh, have I got equipment to show you." And I got to show him-- something called ASDX, which is our ground radar, 'cause he was wondering, "How do you keep track of who all these airplanes are taxing around?"

LOVELL: As a pilot, to see that, it really opens your eyes to the world of aviation. A lotta responsibility falls on Miss Avery's shoulders it's amazing. If I do have the opportunity once I'm all finished with the Army and I get out, I would like to say that it would make me a little more appealing to an employer.

SHERRY AVERY: And were just outside taxi way delta seven south of runway 24 left how do you like the view from here.

LOVELL: It's pretty familiar but the vehicles are a bit bigger than I’m used to.

SHERRY AVERY: It’s a big orchestrated choreographed operation just like yours.

SHERRY AVERY: I think that watching Sam for an entire day at Fort Bliss made me want to steal him and bring him back as a controller at LAX.

LOVELL: And bein' a soldier is-- is probably one of the proudest moments I've ever experienced. And just havin' instilled inside of me those core values that the Army wants you to have. Bein' a soldier is everything. I felt a sense that I-- I wanted to go do somethin' spectacular, and I did. To learn more about my job as a Blackhawk pilot, go the careers page on GoArmy.com.