When two old friends of Jim Wright called him the other morning to say they would drop by for lunch, they weren’t just whistling Dixie.
A few hours later a U.S. Army armed reconnaissance OH-58-D helicopter alighted in the big circle in front of The University of Tennessee Space Institute. The two Tennessee Army National Guardsmen were greeted by their old flying buddy who is now a UTSI Aviation Systems graduate student. This was their first meeting since flying together for a year over Kosovo.
Chief Warrant Officers Brad Hutsell and Charlie Bumpas fly out of McGhee-Tyson Airport in Knoxville as members of P Troop, 4th Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
“I met these two gentlemen in my previous assignment as the U.S. Army-Europe Flight Standardization Officer,” Wright said later. “I had the honor of supporting them for the entire year that they supported the NATO mission to the Kosovo province of Serbia from March 2004 to March 2005.”
Wright flew about 200 hours on about 60 missions with Hutsell and Bumpas’ troop, which flew more than 3000 flight hours and roughly 1,000 missions with a perfect safety record. They supported ground forces from more than 15 NATO allied militaries, 25 non-governmental organizations such as the American Red Cross, and the United Nations headquarters in that area.
Wright took his friends to lunch at UTSI’s dining hall. He said they approved of the food and promised to “put us on the where to go for lunch while out flying” map back in Knoxville.
Several of the Institute’s graduate students swarmed around the ‘copter, which is equipped with a full electronic flight instrument system in the glass cockpit.
Wright explained that the aircraft carries five communications radios and one digital data-link device , all of which can perform encrypted communications.
“All but one of these radios are ‘frequency agile’ – meaning they change their transmit/receive frequencies many hundreds of times per second,” Wright said.
The part above the rotor system is called the “Mast Mounted sight,” Wright said, and contains both forward looking infrared and low-light television cameras capable of up to approximately 100-power magnification, as well as a laser designator.
“As my friends arrived, the aircraft was configured with Hellfire laser-guided missiles and 2.75-inch folding fin rockets,” Wright said.
After the brief visit, a smiling Wright told fellow students: “You can believe that they will be back again.”
Hutsell lives near Knoxville and Bumpas, a Nashville native, resides in Louisiana where – when not on Guard duty — he flies for the oil companies, back and forth to their rigs in the Gulf.
Wright is a native of Connecticut who, after spending a quarter of a century here below the Mason-Dixon line, considers himself completely at home in Tennessee. His brother Dan is also an OH-58-D ‘copter instructor pilot, who spent last year flying over Mosul, Iraq.