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The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center (AHMEC) is uniting with the Liberty War Bird Association (LWBA) to educate the public about rotary-wing flight’s importance and to honor Vietnam War veterans on Saturday, April 13.
The LWBA will offer flights on its newly-restored Vietnam-era UH-1 Huey helicopter beginning at 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. as a member benefit for joining the nonprofit’s all-volunteer organization.
“Our motto is Educate, Honor, Restore,” explained Charles Bechtel of the LWBA. “Our intent is to let the public see the helicopter in an effort to educate them as to how important it was to the Vietnam War. We are primarily Vietnam veterans honoring our fellow veterans with this helicopter, and our senior pilots are retired Army helicopter pilots who have thousands of hours flying all types of helicopters.
“[We] purchase, restore and fly Huey helicopters because of the impact the helicopter had during the 20-year war in Vietnam. We have this helicopter flying after 15,000 man hours with 20-some people working every Saturday. We just got it out of the paint shop. It will look exactly as it did during the war.
“Our aircraft, Huey 823, served in Vietnam from late 1968 through early 1970 with Company C 101st Airborne and the 170th Assault Helicopter Company, accumulating over 1,300 combat flight hours. It has the bullet scars to prove it!”
The Vietnam War became known as “The Helicopter War” largely due to the Huey. Bell Helicopter’s (now Bell) iconic aircraft was the first turbine-powered helicopter contracted by the military, and proved to have the necessary horsepower to change the Army’s capabilities. It was quick, sturdy and multi-functional. It moved troops, carried supplies, provided air support and evacuated wounded soldiers, saving lives that might otherwise have been lost.
“In VietNam the Huey was an embedded part of the unit,” stated Charlie McManus, an AHMEC Docent who was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam from 1968 until ’69. “They were always available [and] were a part of every operation. They always did all that was asked of them. The Huey was our horse both in a tactical sense and in an emotional sense.”
Foremost is becoming a member of LWBA to support its important mission for a cost of $80 per person. Amenities include a membership card, quarterly newsletter, schedule of events, LWBA pin and a flight in Huey 823, which holds seven people.
Flights in Huey 823 are on a first come, first served basis and last six to seven minutes. Daily admission rates, found on AHMEC’s website at www.americanhelicopter.museum, apply for entrance to the museum. Museum helicopter ride gift certificates are not valid.
“We’re proud to be part of the American Helicopter Museum and take our place beside the other helicopters that have had a significant impact on aviation,” Bechtel said. “We look at our Huey as being a flying museum, so AHMEC is doing what we are doing to preserve helicopter history.”