MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - A UH-1N Huey landing aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., is not unfamiliar for the area, but the one that landed on Nov. 5, 2013 marked the end of an era for the iconic aircraft.
Senior leadership of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit ended their 2013 deployment from the 5th Fleet and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility by flying into Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune on the last Marine Corps UH-1N to deploy as the service completes the transition to the new UH-1Y.
Assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266 (Reinforced), currently reinforcing the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the older model of aircraft has been deployed during the last eight months supporting crisis response and theater security cooperation missions in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The Huey is a multi-role utility helicopter, comfortably meeting requirements to accomplish all six functions of Marine Corps aviation, including assault and close air support as well as casualty evacuations and reconnaissance. Its flexibility makes it a perfect fit for the Marine Corps – a multi-mission airframe capable of operating across the spectrum of modern military operations.
Justifiably, the last flight for the UH-1N was also conducted by one of the oldest aircraft of that model.
“Aircraft 30 was built in August 1970,” said Capt. Andrew Kingsbury, UH-1N Huey pilot assigned to VMM-266, and Tustin, Calif., native, referring to his helicopter. “There were one or two that were older, but they were stricken from the record about 15 years ago. This aircraft has seen every major conflict the Marine Corps has been involved in since the 1970s.”
There are even images of the aircraft during the initial push into Iraq.
Manufactured by Bell Helicopter, the UH-1 Huey was first introduced to the Marine Corps in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A quick, versatile aircraft, it rapidly became a symbol for the Vietnam War as a whole, an iconic image of that conflict. According to www.bellhelicopter.com, the Huey has gone through a number of reinventions as it converts to the UH-1Y.
“The Yankee provides an upgraded engine, an upgraded transmission and an upgraded avionics suite, so it really brings us into the 21st century of flying and fighting aircraft,” said the six-year Huey pilot. “Where we could before only lift four to five guys, we can now be equipped to conduct any mission and still lift 12 Marines.”
In order to prevent wasted assets, the Marine Corps will give the retired aircraft to different sources that can make use of the older style helicopter.
“More than likely, when we get back to [Marine Corps Air Station] Cherry Point, the helicopters will be towed to Tucson, Ariz., where they will be stripped of anything Marine Corps or anything the federal government isn’t selling to the next customer,” said Kingsbury. “The United States Air Force still uses the [UH-1] November, so we will send them their way and they will get repainted and will be accepted by the Air Force as their aircraft.”
He said the aircraft still have a little fight left in them and will continue to be flown around Cherry Point for approximately a month as the pilots all look toward the future and the UH-1 “Yankee.”