Sunday, June 08, 2014

Test pilot to describe X49A experimental helicopter


Rich Jackson, retired Coast Guard commander, chief pilot for Avwatch Inc., and test pilot for Piasecki Aircraft, will describe the special features of the X49A Speedhawk experimental compound helicopter at the Lexington Veterans Association on Monday, June 9 at 1:15 p.m. at the Cary Memorial Library, 1725 Massachusetts Ave., lower level meeting room. The public is welcome.

The X49A combines the best qualities of an airplane -- greater speed and longer-range travel -- with the best qualities of a helicopter -- vertical takeoff and landing.

Jackson first became aware of the X49A Speedhawk in 1986 when he was completing his master’s degree in aeronautical science. Intrigued with the design, he wrote to the president of the company and co-designer of the aircraft, Frank Piasecki and the two started a 20-year relationship. In 2007, Piasecki needed a second test pilot for the X49A and offered Jackson the job. He has worked continually as test pilot and consultant since then.

In his 32 years of flying experience, Jackson has flown 10 different aircraft. He spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force before transferring to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1988 because he liked taking off and landing aircraft from ships. After 14 years in the Coast Guard, which included a Navy exchange program, five years in the Polar Operations Division, and a stint as operations department head of a Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) for the MH-68 system, he retired at the rank of commander in 2004.

Two weeks into retirement, Jackson received an offer from AirScan Inc. to conduct aerial reconnaissance in Kosovo flying their MC-337 helicopter as part of the NATO peacekeeping activity. His next assignment was with the builder of the MA-68 helicopter, working with prospective buyers of the aircraft, mainly foreign governments, in training, engineering, testing and sales capacities.

With Operation Iraqi Freedom now underway, Jackson wanted to be involved. He spent six years in Iraq as pilot and theatre manager for Reconnaissance/ Surveillance/Target Acquisition (RSTA), flying the MC-337 and the PA-31 for AirScan.

Jackson is currently the chief pilot for Avwatch, based in Plymouth. Using the highly sophisticated C41SR aircraft with full motion video and integrated aircraft, sensors, and downlink systems, Avwatch provides an array of critical services that include disaster assistance, scientific research, and public safety.

The public is invited to gather at 12:45 for coffee and conversation. Coffee is provided compliments of Starbucks in Lexington Center. Baked goods are donated by volunteers and the Veterans’ Association is grateful to all those who bake or bring these items.


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