Amanda Birch, once a teen pilot, now flies Blackhawks

Amanda Birch modeling her Blackhawk pilot’s helmet. Birch gained her first wings at Hood River airfield in 1999, and was also a standout swimmer.


Amanda Birch modeling her Blackhawk pilot’s helmet. Birch gained her first wings at Hood River airfield in 1999, and was also a standout swimmer.

The newly licensed 16-year-old pilot profiled in a 1999 edition of the Hood River News has moved way beyond Cessna.

Second Lt. Amanda Birch, a 2001 Hood River Valley High School graduate, is now a Blackhawk helicopter pilot.

On Jan. 24, Birch graduated from the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala.

Birch, now 30, received her IERW UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter wings after 18 months of intensive training in survival, rescue, and flight — one of five women in the 90-member training cadre.

Birch, the daughter of Charles and Maureen Birch, of Hood River, is stationed in Phoenix, Ariz., the latest chapter in a long saga involving success in the air and in the water.

After graduating from Hood River Valley High School in 2001, Birch attended the University of Hawaii in Manoa to study kinesiology with hopes of becoming an athletic trainer of a physical therapist. While in Hawaii, Birch competed on the UH-Manoa swim team for two years.

In high school Birch swam for the HRVHS swim team and the Hood River Valley Swim Team. Birch made a “big splash” in swimming when she competed for the World Sports Exchange International swim team her sophomore year in high school.

The team was filled with the best athletes across the United States to compete against the Australian team assembled by the New South Wales Swimming Association.

After attending two years at the University of Hawaii, Birch transferred to the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerosciences.

She received the Cirrus Design Corporation Award through the UND foundation in 2006. While at UND, Birch was a flight instructor and an airport safety officer for the Crookston, Minn., airport.

In her spare time, Amanda coached the junior varsity high school girls swim team and the Red River Valley Y Wahoo swim team.

On May 10, 2008, Birch graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautics with a major in commercial aviation along with a bachelor’s degree in business and public administration, and a major in aviation management.

After graduating, Birch became a flight instructor in Scottsdale, Ariz., for Sawyer Aviation. Birch joined the Arizona National Guard in 2009 and was later commissioned as a second lieutenant on Sept. 11, 2011, in Phoenix.

— Katie Tolbert, News intern, contributed to this story.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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