Olivia Johnson, 5, clutched her father’s hand as she stood outside the gaping hole left by the open door in the side of a powerful black helicopter.
“It’s just like our toy one,” she said with a giggle as her dad helped her and her 3-year-old brother, Corbin, into the aircraft. She stood grinning out at her dad from inside the big helicopter.
A UH-60L Black Hawk to be exact.
She was among dozens of families, students and faculty members who turned out Wednesday at Indiana Wesleyan University to get an up close look at an aircraft that has become a symbol of American military power.
“Can we get in the front now?” she asked as she hopped out.
The University’s Roaring Lambs ROTC Chapter sponsored the visit of the Black Hawk air assault helicopter. Chief Warrant Officer Richard Clark was the pilot. His daughter Jillian attends IWU.
Ben Crandall, a faculty liaison for the ROTC at IWU and a professor of nursing, said it was an opportunity for the community to get out and see what the Army is really made of.
“We’re trying to show the different facets and ways (soldiers) serve our country,” he said. “It’s a chance to show Army aviation. The Army actually has more aircraft than the Air Force.”
As the helicopter whizzed through the clear skies Wednesday, crowds lined the grassy area beside Noggle Christian Ministry Center, near 41st and Washington streets, looking expectantly into the air as they heard the loud sound of propellers echoing from above.
The wind from the tremendous blades of the rotors blew the leaves off the trees and sent many of those standing to watch running for cover.
But Olivia didn’t seem to remember the windy landing as she peered into the interior of the plane, a big smile on her face.
“I think this is really cool,” said her dad, Nathan. “I thought the kids would like to see a helicopter close up, so I brought them down here today.”
Malcolm Evans, an aircraft lover and member of the IWU Board of Trustees, explained the history of the machine – the make was introduced in 1976, but helicopter at IWU Wednesday was produced in 1982 – as he admired it.
Evans said he learned the helicopter in Marion on Wednesday had been tagged to be used as a medical vehicle this May in Iraq.
“It’s great,” he said. “I’m glad our military brings the men out into the community like this.”
Megan Zurcher, an IWU student, said she was released from class for a quick visit.
“It’s really neat,” she said, laughing as she recounted her reaction when the helicopter landed. “I didn’t know what was going on. But the size of it (is surprising). When you see them in movies, they look much smaller.”
Originally published October 26, 2006