Warbird Attack Helicopter Operated by Local Chapter of the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation
If you have been out to Mesa’s Falcon Field on a Saturday over the past year, or attended the Gateway or Falcon Field Airport open houses, you could not have missed the Valley’s newest aviation organization and flying thrill. The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation (AAHF) stood up an AZ Chapter last year and the chapter received its first aircraft, an AH-1F Cobra, in November 2015.
The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation (AAHF) is a one-of-a-kind national, non-profit all-volunteer organization composed of veterans, their families, and civilian supporters. The mission of the AAHF is to honor veterans, connect the American soldier to the citizens they serve, and tell the story of Army Aviation and the soldiers who flew and supported Army aircraft. The AAHF provides America an opportunity to hear its veterans, share their stories, and see its military legacy in flight and in action.
The affect the Chapter’s Cobra has on veterans is varied. For the crews that flew and maintained them it is like reuniting with an old loyal friend. For those on the ground who were supported by the Cobra attack helicopter it is a reminder of a part of the Army Team that may have been unfamiliar to them, but indebted to for the lifesaving fire support it proved. Whether a veteran pilot long out of the cockpit or an infantryman who remembers a section of Cobras coming over a ridge to save his life, the AZ Chapter of the AAHF provides them an opportunity to connect with their past, an inspiration to share their experiences with family and friends, and to actually fly in a Cobra that served in Vietnam like they did.
Most Saturdays from September through April the Cobra flies at Falcon Filed. Rides may be purchased. The preflight includes a briefing of a mission that actually occurred during the Vietnam War that resulted in a Medal of Honor. The flight profile will demonstrate the tactics used in that mission. The AZ Chapter also makes appearances at fly-ins, airshows, and veterans events.
In the fall the AZ Chapter will receive its second aircraft, a UH-1C Huey gunship. The Huey is a restoration project that will be transferred from AAHF Headquarters in Georgia. Although the Huey is a complete project to include weapons, it is destined be a static display aircraft due to a lack of certain documentation on transfer from the Army to AAHF. What this means to members is that since work will not have to be performed by a licensed Airframe and Power plant mechanic, everyone is welcome to turn wrenches on the restoration of a historic Huey gunship.
Next summer the AZ Chapter will expand the AAHF mission to Southern California. With a typical Army aviation operation in mind, the AZ Chapter will temporarily relocate the Cobra to Southern California next summer. Members there will support operations of the Cobra in what is called Forward Operating Base (FOB) SoCal.
Corporate support for the AZ Chapter has been vital in the formation of the Chapter and its early success. Falcon Field Authorized Bell Service Center Heliponents has provided hangar space and technical support, while Flight Trails provided office space for Chapter business. Boeing Helicopters has donated almost every piece of office equipment the Chapter uses and donates an hourly payment for time member employees and retirees volunteer with the Chapter. Chapter founder and President Dave Sale is particularly appreciative of Inter-Coastal Electronics (ICE). Dave said, “ICE was not only one of the very first corporate sponsors of the Chapter, but they proved the critical final element in our quest to secure the Huey gunship. ICE CEO Charles Kirkpatrick has provided our Chapter the use of a building suitable for the restoration of the Huey. Receiving a historically complete early Huey Gunship is a major accomplishment for us and it was made possible by Inter-Coastal Electronics.”
The AZ Chapter has 180 members. Most are veterans, but all are dedicated to preserving Vietnam era Army aviation aircraft to further a mission of educating the American public and honoring veterans. With the Cobra coming out of a scheduled maintenance period, and the static display Huey gunship project on the way, securing a flying Huey becomes the Chapter’s next goal. New members are encouraged to join. Chapter President Dave Sale extended the invitation, “Everyone brings something to the table, maintainers, administration talent, historians, web and social media expertise, business development, operations, all are welcome. We are engaged in an honorable enterprise. The Chapter has big plans for the Valley. We are happy to share the experience with new members.”
New members may join by going to the AAHF website: www.armyav.org. Flights may be scheduled by calling 480-217-1635. The AZ Chapter will have the Cobra at the AOPA Fly-in at Prescott, October 1st, and Copperstate in Mesa, October 28-29.