AZ, Tucson -- “I used to hate old-timers who didn't praise the younger wrestlers, but you've got to pass the torch sometime. If you're old, that torch gets too heavy for you and you can't carry it, so it won't do you any good.” – Randy “Macho Man” Savage
For decades, the UH-1N Huey has served our country with honor. Reliability and time tested dependability is what Marine Corps history will have to say about the Iroquois.
Sadly, like all things, the elder UH-1N model’s time has come to pass. On April 24, escorted by Cherry Point, N.C., based Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467, the 1N model Huey’s found their resting place at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Group, an aircraft gravesite appropriately known as the Boneyard.
Established in 1946 at Davis-Monthan Field, the storage site now houses the remnants of over 1,440 different make, model and series of aircrafts. The facility houses everything from a Navy/Marine Corps T-1A Sea Star from the Korean War era to the more contemporary C-130 and everything in between.
For at least one of the two UH-1N Huey’s, the avionic mausoleum will serve as a final landing zone.
“UH-1N BUNO (Bureau Number) 158782, which arrived today, will be transferred to the USAF (United States Air Force) and will once again become operational. The other UH-1N that arrived today, BUNO 160459, is going into Section 2, CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) War Reserve, Special Projects, which means it will be held in inviolate storage,” said Timothy Horn, Naval Inventory Control Point Detachment Field Support Office director and a native of Philadelphia, Pa. “It could either wind up being transferred to the air force, sold to the Department of Homeland Security, or CNO may decide to put it in a GSA (General Services Administration) exchange/sale program where it would be sold at a GSA auction.”
Since early 2009, the UH-1N has served HMLA-467 to the best of its abilities. Mission oriented in anything and everything from close air support, combat assault, reconnaissance support and evacuations to airborne command and control operations. The 1N Huey’s adaptability to different situations has been an ideal fit for the Sabers.
Under the HMLA-467 banner, the helo has seen campaigns with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. It has also been a part of Operation Unified Response in Haiti, Operation Martillo 2-12, and hurricane Sandy relief operations in 2013.
“There is nothing like the sound of a UH-1N, again the aircraft as a whole is very iconic,” said Capt. Patrick DeGraaf, HMLA-467 Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization officer and a native of Dayton, Ohio. “Everything from its look to the sound of a UH-1N on the horizon.”
A long and storied history has found the medium attack helicopter everywhere from Vietnam to Iraq. Variants of the model have been featured in several iconic films – Most memorably in 1979 over the Valhalla inspired crescendo of German-born composer Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in the visionary beachhead scene of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Apocalypse Now.
Over the years, the model has received many upgrades to its overall structure. To be expected with a track record spanning across four decades of hardnosed service in the Corps, but like all technology, it was time for the Marine Corps to upgrade to a newer design. For HMLA-467, the transition began in April of this year with the arrival of the new UH-1Y.
“As a UH-1N pilot, I will never admit that it is time for the November to be phased out,” said DeGraaf, who’s been flying UH-1N Huey’s for four and a half years. However, DeGraaf adds, “The Yankee will give us capabilities that are much needed in today’s fight. We will be able to carry more personnel, more ordnance and provide more time on station to those Marines on the ground.”
The induction is a process which takes the aircraft and cleans it up. They get inspected, inventoried, and towed to a flush farm for complete de-fueling. Engines and motors are preserved using 10-10 light machine oil. AMARG also takes care of internal maintenance through various procedures that can take up to 60 days.
Their fates sealed, aircrafts are taken to one of six sections. Their destinations could land them on a list to a museum, parts reclamation, foreign military sales, or disposal; parked at a site amongst others of their kind.
With that, successor UH-1Y will now take on the responsibilities of its predecessor with HMLA-467 Marines guiding it along the way.
“The transition to the Y will open doors for the squadron in terms of deployments and more mission- tasking,” said DeGraaf. “It will additionally increase our capabilities as a whole. Again, allowing the squadron to provide better support to the end user, that Marine on the deck.”
With respect to history and tradition, the Marine Corps memory is vast. The UH-1N can rest assured knowing its contribution and faithful service will be remembered in the minds of the crews it carried and the hearts of those who maintained it.