Why are so many helicopters flying at night lately?

Fort Sill_ Lawton-Fort sill is seeing and hearing a lot more of these helicopters lately.  The 34th Combat Aviation Brigade is training more and more soldiers who will soon be on their way to Iraq.  But, the chopper noise has some in Lawton disgruntled.

At all hours of the night, Lawton-Fort Sill residents are hearing the sounds of helicopters.  In fact, a Fort Sill helicopter had to make an emergency landing in a yard in Comanche County this week.  All the flights, however, no matter what hour, are happening for a very important reason.

Garrison Commander Colonel Robert Bridgford says it isn't going to get quieter anytime soon.  "What we've seen over the last month is a real acceleration in those aviation missions," he says.  the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade has been in full force lately, training more than 120 helicopter crews for battle in Iraq.  It's a lot more than usual, and Bridgford says they've been training primarily at night.

Chief Warrant Officer 3, Jason Wright, says they must train as they intend to fight.  "We're obviously working all 24-hours of the day over in Iraq, and they'd like to emulate that over here, so they fly day missions as well as night missions," he says.  Sometimes the brigades fly as far as 100 miles from home to get a better understanding of how battle will be where they are fighting.  They fly over houses and businesses to gain more of an understanding of real life combat.  "The training is very essential in the routes that they plan, and they fly, are to emulate routes that are actually in Iraq - the distance, the legs of each route," says Wright.

Fort Sill has had a lot of calls about the noise occurring at all hours of the night, and Wright says they investigate each incident.  "We make sure our pilots have done the right thing - are they flying at the right altitudes?  Are they flying on the right paths?"  He says they have less than three months to train for battle, so they must ensure that they are prepared for every circumstance.  "It's really a shame when somebody crashes due to pilot error because they just don't have the experience or training," he says.

Fort Sill officials say they investigated every complaint, and say they are following every guideline from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), along with their own standards - at an elevation of at least 700-feet.  The post says air traffic will be reduced in the next few weeks as crews complete their training and depart for Iraq.  However, at the beginning of next year, more soldiers will arrive at Fort Sill for aviation training.