Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pentagon wants to move Lakota pilot training school from Capital City Airport to Arizona

The Pentagon wants to move the pilot training school for the Army UH-72 Lakota helicopter now at Capital City Airport to Arizona, according to one source.

Todd Smith, who as general manager of CXY Aviation runs day to day operations at Capital City in York County, said he learned in October that the National Guard Bureau had decided to move the school to an Army flight training facility in Arizona by 2015.

Pennsylvania National Guard spokesman Maj. Ed Shank could not confirm Smith’s report. The National Guard Bureau did not respond to a request for comment left by phone Tuesday.

The Lakota entered service in 2006 and is to be used for search-and-rescue and other noncombat missions.

The school on Capital City Airport trains all Army pilots on the Lakota, including those in the active Army and National Guard.

The Guard started the Lakota training in 2008 at the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ard moved the school to Capital City Airport in March 2011, as a temporary location until the Guard can build a new facility on the Gap to provide the Lakota training.

Smith said the National Guard has a lease for the school on Capital City Airport that expires in 2015. However, he said the lease must be renewed by the government each year.

Since moving to Capital City the Lakota training has sparked complaints from some New Cumberland residents about helicopters flying low over their homes. Smith said to his knowledge the Pentagon decision to move the school is not related to the complaints.

He said the school has eight Lakota helicopters with plans to expand to 18 when the school returns to the Gap. Several hundred Army pilots have been trained since the school moved to the airport although Smith could not say exactly how many. The long-term plan also calls for mechanics to be trained at the Lakota school here.

Nearly 10,000 take-offs and landings of the Lakota have taken place at the airport since March.

Smith could not say how many people work at the school.

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