PENDLETON — Army aviator Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Long this month moved back to the town he loves from the Willamette Valley.
Long resided in Pendleton from 1995 to 2009, while serving with the “Dust Devils” Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter unit based at the airport.
“This is my final move, he said. “I am here to stay.”
The 36-year veteran is assigned to the Oregon Army National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopter unit in Salem. The Airbus Helicopters’ Lakota has two engines, with a single, four-bladed main rotor. Boeing Chinooks have two, tandem, counter-rotating, three-bladed rotors.
Long moved to the Portland area in 2009 to work as an aviation safety inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration field office. He has flown almost every rotary wing aircraft, but for the FAA specializes in night vision goggles, large helicopters and air ambulances.
Long recently returned from an FAA assignment in France with Airbus Helicopters. There he was one of the first Americans to fly the new H-160, a medium utility helicopter in the Airbus MH-65 Dolphin family. It’s a scaled up Dolphin, with a new five-bladed main rotor and an empty weight of 9,348 pounds, vesus MH-65’s 5,267. The U.S. Coast Guard operates four-bladed Dolphins. Lakota weighs only 3,951 pounds.
“It was the pinnacle of my flying career to be on the certification team for the FAA and to represent America,” Long said. “It was a great honor to be on the team that certifies a new prototype helicopter for import into the United States.”
Long deployed to Afghanistan with the Dust Devils in 2005-06, brigaded with the Nevada Guard’s Mustangs. His barracks roommate and friend, Pendleton native CWO Adrian Stump, 22, and Staff Sgt. Tane Baum, 30, formerly of Athena, were killed in action. Three other soldiers died with them on Sept. 25, 2005. There is a large Mustang 22 Memorial in Reno and a smaller one in Pendleton.
An assignment to train pilots in Bangladesh followed.
Every summer the Dust Devils fought wildfires across Oregon, dipping underslung giant, 20,000-pound when filled Bambi buckets into water sources. He often engaged in search and rescue missions. Boeing gave his flight crew an award for a daring, long-range rescue in the Sierra Nevada at 15,000 feet.
Long’s lengthy aviation career has prepared him well for his next assignment in October. Though eligible to retire, he has volunteered for yet another deployment — flying the Lakota on the southwest border.
“The mission will not be easy,” Long said. ”We will fly each night. Our mission is to stop fentanyl, meth and other illicit drugs from crossing the border, and additionally, to stop human trafficking and provide humanitarian aid to those in need. But my priority will be to use all of my skills and experience to bring everyone home on this deployment.”
Long’s final goal is to serve his last eight years in Pendleton, once again flying the CH-47.
“My last flight in the Lakota will be Texas,” Long said. “Upon my return, I will check into the Pendleton Chinook unit, and they will either tell me to turn in my gear and retire, or send me to fly the Chinook. Either way, I am good.”
Long has spent a lifetime of public service in many capacities. He served several years on the Pendleton Airport Commission, is an ex-board member of McNary Yacht Club, a Pendleton Air Museum co-founder, former member of the Pendleton City Club and a 27-year volunteer at Happy Canyon.
“I can’t wait for Round-Up,” Long said. “I love the run-in.”
Long has an interest in helping the Pendleton Air Museum.
“I have a lead on an old UH-1H (Huey),” Long said. “I think I can help PAM get the helicopter and we could put it on static display at the airport.”
Long can work for the FAA remotely from anywhere within commuting range of Portland in his Rutan Long-EZ homebuilt light plane. World-famous engineer Burt Rutan autographed it in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, as the finest example of his design he had ever seen.
“I picked Pendleton because all my friends are here,” he said. “Pendleton is my home. I love dinner at Cimmiyotti’s on Friday night, a cold beer at the Packard, CrossFit at 1910, and the real feel of a community here.”
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