July 14th, 2012
The Museum of Flight in Seattle recently hosted the American Heroes Air Show that is dedicated to showcasing the use of helicopters in the U.S. military, U.S. Coast Guard, law enforcement and civilian roles. Unfortunately in the morning there was widespread low-level fog which delayed some helicopters and prevented others from arriving, despite this there was still plenty to see and it was a very hands on experience with the helicopters being open for inspection including sitting in the cockpit.
Here comes the US Army Air Cav!
The highlight of the show was the U.S. Army Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter.
This is the latest variant of the Apache with advanced sensors and a glass cockpit (the original AH-64A came into service in 1986). The crew receive a lot of target information when these sensors are operational (the radar can track 128 targets!), so much so that one of the crew told me they turned off a lot of equipment during their most recent tour of duty in Iraq due to sensory overload!
With a top speed of 284 kmph (176 mph) and armed with a 30mm M230 chain gun (with up to 1,200 high explosive rounds it can fire at a high rate of 625 rpm!), Hellfire missiles and rocket pods the Apache is a flying beast! The chain gun will automatically point where the gunner or pilot looks (depending who has the sensor activated), as it is linked to a helmet mounted display. The crew told me though they tended to use the Hellfire missile more in recent combat as it is less likely to inflict “collateral damage”!
It was great to be able to have a close up look at the Apache and even sit in the cockpit, but the highlight was to see (and hear) it fly!