AHP Awarded Huey
BG Daily News article by Wes Swietek– The search is over, but the wait is not. Aviation Heritage Park officials have been looking for several years for a UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter to add to the display of five fixed-wing aircraft at the park on Three Springs Road.
“The Aviation Heritage Park does things like no other aviation museum” by linking its displayed aircraft with the story of Kentucky aviators who flew them, AHP board President Bob Pitchford said.
One of the area’s most noted military aviators was U.S. Army pilot Col. Raymond T. Nutter.
According to Nutter’s 2006 obituary in the Daily News, Nutter’s combat service in Vietnam earned numerous citations for valor, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for valor.
The Distinguished Service Cross Hall of Valor website outlines Nutter’s actions that led to the citation:
“Major Nutter distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 18 October 1966 while serving as platoon leader of an armed helicopter team supporting combat operations near Vi Thanh. Major Nutter led his aircraft in strikes at heavily fortified Viet Cong positions that were threatening a small friendly force. When two evacuation helicopters were forced to abandon attempts to reach the ground unit because of intense fire, Major Nutter decided to fly in for the pickup himself. As he brought his helicopter down, it was hit by a burst of fire which riddled the cabin, shot away the controls, and killed the other pilot. In the crash, Major Nutter suffered a large gash in his leg, but led the two crew members out of the aircraft and deeper into the swamp as the Viet Cong closed in on the wreckage. With the hope of escaping to friendly territory, they decided to move stealthily through the enemy positions, which were not under air and artillery assault. Hampered by his injury and beset by leeches and mosquitoes, he hacked his way through the swamp growths with a knife. On two occasions, when an armed insurgent attacked them, Major Nutter killed them with his knife. Suffering from cold, mosquitoes, and the pain of his wounds, and endangered by artillery fire all night, Major Nutter hid until morning in a rice paddy. Early the next day, he made contact with a friendly Vietnamese force.”
Nutter was one of the thousands of Vietnam-era helicopter pilots to fly a Huey helicopter. From 1965 to 1973, the UH-1 was the most common utility helicopter used in Vietnam, according to the Vietnam Helicopters Museum website.
“We have a long wish list,” said Pitchford, adding the Huey search has spanned about three years. The Hueys “are harder to come by than we ever thought it would be. When we found one, they were still in flying condition and owners wanted $500,000.”
But the AHP has a strong relationship with the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and began making inquiries with its staff. Those efforts paid off three months ago as an available Huey was located at the Davis-Monthan Air Force “Boneyard” – reportedly the largest repository of old military aircraft in the world – in Tucson, Ariz.
“We were ecstatic,” Pitchford said.
But locating the craft was just the first step.
The Huey has to be demilitarized – a process AHP officials were told can take anywhere from a few months to up to three years.
“We went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows,” Pitchford said.
But the AHP is hoping to have the Huey here sooner rather than later and has been lobbying for an expedited process.
“We’re hoping to have it at the next Hanger Party” next summer, Pitchford said. AHP officials are also working on plans to raise the needed funds to get the helicopter transported here and related costs.
The Huey will not only help tell the tale of Nutter’s service but many other local veterans as well who came into contact with the workhouse helicopter.
“We love the story the Huey tells. Every serviceman knows that incredible whoop, whoop, whoop sound” indicating help was on the way, Pitchford said.
— Follow city government reporter Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.