By Kaylee LaRocque

NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs Officer

Two new helicopter landing pads at Naval Air Station Jacksonville opened April 20 with a section takeoff of two MH-60R "Romeo" helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadrons 72 and 74. 

As the helicopter pilots taxied out to the new area located just east of the air traffic control tower, a small group of Sailors, civilians and contractors cheered them on.

The pilots hovered their aircraft and rotated 180 degrees before taking off for a quick flight before returning to the landing pads. 

"We started working on this project in November 2015 to move the landing pads from the southern end of the seawall to this new area," said NAS Jacksonville Operations Officer Cmdr. Stephen Polk.

"We had been operating in the previous location under a 47-year waiver because the helo pads were situated in an aircraft parking apron. When the project came up to add an additional parking area here, we requested to change the improvement plan to create these two helo landing pads."

The project, which cost nearly $8 million, consists of 10-inch thick concrete to sustain the weight of any helicopter in the Navy's inventory. The new location significantly improves safety for air traffic controllers and fuel handlers on the flight line. 

"The new landing pads provide increased helicopter capability and flexibility," said Polk. "It used to be a bottleneck out here with the landing pads located on the parking apron. It made it challenging for our controllers. Now they can coordinate the jets and fixed wing aircraft at the same time and best of all, we no longer have to operate under the special waiver."