While powerful fighter jets may get all the glory, helicopters have long played a key role in Marine Corps aviation.
That history and the latest innovations of rotary wing aircraft will be celebrated at the Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation annual gala on Jan. 31 at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
The program, entitled “Go Faster, Go Farther – The Osprey,” will focus on the V-22. John Rader, a retired Marine colonel and Boeing executive, is the scheduled guest speaker and will talk about recent advances in rotary wing aircraft and his experience in the development of the Osprey.
Tom Braaten, retired Marine major general and former Cherry Point commander, is scheduled to serve as master of ceremonies for the event. Braaten, a helicopter pilot while in the service, will have many experiences from which to draw.
“Our focus for the evening will be on the MV-22 Osprey,” said Braaten, the current director of Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern. “However, we will spend some time talking about early helicopters and how the Marines have put them to excellent use to move troops and cargo, save lives, add eyes to the battlefield, increase our firepower, and provide a whole new dimension to how we fight and support the Marines on the ground.”
He said improvements in technology have led to improvements in helicopters.
“Helicopters have come a long way since I started flying them in the 1960s,” Braaten said. “Part of the reason for the improvement in capability and performance is advancement in technology and the materials we have now. Part of it is the creativity of aerospace engineers. Part of it is a demand by the military for helicopters that could lift more, fly faster and farther, and withstand the rigors of combat even better.”
Part of it is the demand to use helicopters in the civilian community. Cherry Point’s CH-46 Pedro frequently does rescue and searches off the base to help local officials. Braaten was part of that effort in 1999 when he rescued civilians caught in flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.
“I think of my experiences in the CH-46 with speed and distance limitations, yet the Phrog (CH-46) was a great helicopter for the Marine Corps,” he said. “The Osprey, with its speed and distance capabilities, is even more of a combat multiplier. Hence the title for our Gala, “Go Faster, Go Farther – The Osprey.””
Amanda Ohlensehlen, manager of the tourist center and member of the foundation, said the program should be of interest to all, though “if I had to guess, there will be some banter between fixed-wing and rotary-wing pilots.”
The gala raises money for the aviation foundation, which maintains the exhibits and aircraft at the tourist center and provides a program on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education and aviation at area schools.
“Through our efforts with community schools, ECAHF is doing our best to ensure we have the folks with a solid understanding of STEM to allow our country to keep making leaps into the future, faster and farther,” Braaten said.
The gala is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center. Tickets are $50 per person or $90 per couple and are available in advance at the tourist center. Table sponsorships are available for $300.
For more information, call the tourist center at 444-4348, email Ohlenselen at AOhlensehlen@havelocknc.us or go online to the foundation website at www.ecaviationheritage.com.