Final Flight of Huey for 'Red Dogs'

Final Flight of Huey for ‘Red Dogs'

The UH-1N Huey (Right) escorts a UH-1Y Venom (Left) during the final flight of the UH-1N Huey for Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, Marine Aircraft Group 49, aboard Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans. Photo by Cpl J. Gage Karwick.

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE, New Orleans (Sept. 3, 2014) - After more than 40 years of service, the Marine Corps retired the aging UH-1N Huey helicopter during a "sundown ceremony" Aug. 28, 2014, aboard Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans.

The UH-1N Huey is a twin engine, utility helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopters in 1969. Bell began the delivery of 205 UH-1N helicopters, to the Navy and Marine Corps in 1971. For more than 40 years of service, the UH-1N has been operationally employed in Vietnam, Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq. The UH-1N flew its last combat flight in 2010 in Afghanistan.

"Over the years the Marine Corps has developed a number of upgrades for the aircraft including improved avionics, aircraft survivability equipment and a forward looking infrared sensor," said Maj Joseph C. Begley, an AH-1W pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 Detachment A, Marine Aircraft Group 49, during the ceremony opening remarks.

The UH-1N holds sentimental value for many who attended the final flight. During the ceremony, many shared their personal accounts about the aircraft.

"The UH-1N is American history; it's a touch tone aircraft of combat for a full generation," said Col Philip M. Pastino, commanding officer of MAG-49. "I was a lieutenant at the El Toro airshow in 1990 manning my Huey, [during] a static display, when an older gentleman stood back and stared for a good while. After a pause he asked me in a shaky voice if he could touch the Huey. He slowly approached the aircraft and placed his hands on the cargo deck and he started to cry. I didn't know what to do so I put my hand on his shoulder. He told me that his brothers that didn't come home, and were now on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, flew their last flight in a UH-1N. I knew then that it wasn't my Huey at the airshow, it was his and a whole generation's."

The UH-1N platform flown by HMLA-773, has been replaced by the new UH-1Y Venom platform which provides drastically improved capabilities to its predecessor in terms of range, airspeed, payload, survivability and lethality.

In 1996, the Marine Corps launched the H-1 upgrade program, signing a contract with Bell Helicopter for upgrading 100 UH-1Ns into UH-1Ys. The largest improvement was the increase in engine power. Replacing the engines and the two-bladed rotor system with four blades, the Y-model will return the Huey to the utility role for which it was designed. Originally, the UH-1Y was to be remanufactured from UH-1N airframes, but in April 2005, approval was granted to build them as new helicopters.

"A big thing for us is training and the UH-1Y is really going to help us be combat ready and have a more predominant place in Marine Corps aviation," said LtCol Mark Sauer, commanding officer of Det. C, MAG-49.

Though the UH-1N has retired, the Marine Corps and HMLA-773 have great expectations for their new platform, the UH-1Y Venom.

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