TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The U.S. Coast Guard showed off its newly acquired MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter Thursday at its Traverse City station. It is the first of three Jayhawks that will replace its current MH-65 Dolphin helicopters.
Each year on average the U.S. Coast Guard saves 3,567 lives across Michigan according to their data. The addition of three Jayhawks upgrades the Ninth Coast Guard District's fleet for reasons including its extended flight range: compared to about a two-hour range for the Dolphin, the Jayhawk can fly about five-and-a-half hours, or 600 miles, before refueling.
“Technologically-wise and advanced-wise this cockpit is cutting edge for [the Department of Defense] and the Coast Guard," said Lt. Commander Chris Enoksen, a pilot who recently relocated to the Traverse City station after training others on the Jayhawk's upgraded software.
“We can go 600 miles in one direction before we need to refuel. So as a pilot it gives you more options. Fuel is king when you’re flying an aircraft. The ability to carry more people as a rescuer that is super important because you don’t know who you’re going to have until you get on scene," said Enoksen.
About 56-feet in length, the Jayhawk is longer than the Dolphin and also has a larger cavity to hold its four-person crew as well as more people rescued in one mission.
"When you’re not being rushed on fuel or time and stuff like that, you can execute your job a lot safer," said PO2 Spencer Hughes, a flight mechanic with the station. “That’s what really is awesome is having enough power and room you don’t have to say, 'Hey, you’re the unlucky one, we’ll be back.'"
The additional space also allows the crew to bring more gear on each flight, including their rescue basket as well as the rescue litter, or stretcher.
"The biggest thing for us is we have a bigger platform to work with," said AST1 Jon Houlberg, a rescue swimmer with the station.
From the Jayhawk's U.S. Army Blackhawk bones to the U.S. Coast Guard, the crew says the Jayhawk is best suited to handle rescues in the expansive Great Lakes Region. Their area of responsibility spans about 300 miles in different directions from the Traverse City station.
"It’s a very durable, very capable aircraft," said Enoksen.