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Historic helicopter comes to Wilson

Angie Mayes • Updated Jun 30, 2016 at 8:00 AM

A UH-1 Huey helicopter was transported from Nashville to Lebanon on Wednesday to start renovations on the Vietnam-era bird. It will eventually be displayed at its permanent home in front of the Wilson County Veterans’ Museum. 

According to Wilson County commissioner and retired U.S. Army Col. and Jerry McFarland, the helicopter is on loan from the State of Tennessee. McFarland said the UH-1 Huey helicopter was used to fly U.S. soldiers to Vietnam from 1966-1968, and it was later used by the Tennessee National Guard from 1980 – 1985. The State of Tennessee acquired the helicopter and used it as a training aid most recently, McFarland said.

The aircraft’s interior and exterior will be restored; the outside will be repainted to its original olive drab, and nose art and the tail number will be added, McFarland said. 

“There is a lot of history with this aircraft,” McFarland said. 

According to McFarland, former Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe flew in that UH-1 in the Vietnam War as part of the 48th Assault Helicopter Company (AHC) attached to the 101st Airborne, which is based out of Fort Campbell, Ky. The 48th AHC was active from Nov. 6, 1965, to Aug. 23, 1972, and participated in 16 campaigns in the Vietnam War, according to military historians. 

This particular UH-1 was active in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968, when it was sent back to the U.S. to replace the engine with a heavier engine. It never returned to Vietnam, McFarland said.

In combat, it was able to fit 13 people, by weight. However, if there was equipment to be shipped, then fewer people could fly in the machine. 

Later, when the Tennessee National Guard received the revamped UH-1, McFarland was part of a crew that flew it in the United States. The helicopter was based out of Smyrna. The UH-1 was replaced by the National Guard when the units began to fly Blackhawk helicopters, McFarland said. 

The transport of this historic aircraft involved the chopper being loaded onto a lowboy trailer and strapped securely. The UH-1 is approximately 50-52 feet in length, McFarland said, with rotors that are 48 feet in length. 

When restored, the helicopter will be painted Olive Drab Green, known to soldiers as OD Green. Tourists will be able to go into the helicopter, put on headsets and talk back and forth as if they were riding in the machine. The engine components will be removed and only enough power to light and work the console and headsets will be used.

The Wilson County Veteran’s Museum is slated to open Oct. 29.

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