Blackhawk touches down at fair

Published 7:42 am Thursday, August 12, 2010

Michael McLain, 9, of North Carolina, plays in the cockpit of a Blackhawk UH-60 Wednesday at the Mower County Fair. A St. Paul-based Army crew flew the helicopter to Austin for a public display at the fair in the afternoon. --Rachel Drewelow

Michael McLain, 9, of North Carolina, likes aircrafts.

And Wednesday, he got a real treat when he was in Austin visiting his grandmother — McLain was able to play in the cockpit of a genuine Blackhawk UH-60 Army aircraft at the Mower County Fair.

Army Capt. Andy Lang, specialist Brian Moran and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Fries flew the helicopter down from its base in St. Paul to show it at the fair yesterday afternoon.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s one of 16 to 18 ‘hawks stateside,” Capt. Lang said. “This one is just back from Iraq and it’s mission ready.”

Fair-goers like McLain were able to chat with Austin and St. Paul-based Army servicemen Wednesday while they checked out the Blackhawk — and many took a seat inside the helicopter, sometimes just for a quick break from the sun.

A sign near the Blackhawk stated that it is most often used to transport troops, litter patients and deliver equipment. It is also equipped with a full auto machine gun and can carry hellfire missiles, stinger missiles and rockets.

“Stateside,” Capt. Lang said, “the birds are most often used to fight fires and fight floods.”

They also routinely bring the Blackhawks to fairs and other events to show them to the public, he said.

Ron Hammermeister, a Mower County Fair volunteer, said he usually arranges for the Mayo One helicopter to touch down at the fair, but because of scheduling conflicts and other difficulties he went with a Blackhawk this year.

“People have seemed to really enjoy seeing it,” he said.

In addition to the Blackhawk, local law enforcement gave K-9 unit demonstrations, and the fire department enacted jaws of life and search and rescue demonstrations in the exhibition on the fairgrounds Wednesday.

“It’s all pretty cool,” McLain said.