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At Madison Street Festival, veterans to show fighter helicopter from Vietnam War

MADISON – A bit of military aviation history will be on display for inspection at Madison Street Festival on Oct. 1.

In October 2011, two organizations accepted responsibility to restore the BUC 3 UH-1H helicopter: North Alabama Chapter of Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association or NAVHPA and the Saving Our Flying Heritage Through a Flying Museum or SOFH.

NAVHPA and SOFH are non-profit public educational foundations, as filed under IRS section 501(C)3. The organizations agreed to restore this ‘war hero’ helicopter to “Display” status. With its restoration, the helicopter serves as an interactive, hands-on, living-history museum that the public can view.

NAVHPA will display the UH-1H helicopter in Captain Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. Veterans Memorial Park on Front Street in downtown Madison during the Madison Street Festival. Festivalgoers can examine the vintage helicopter, manipulate the flight controls, get the feel of flying a warbird and ask questions to docents, who are all Vietnam helicopter pilots.

The BUC 3 is available for patriotic occasions, school meetings and charitable events in the greater Huntsville and Madison County area.

“We are appreciative of the NAVHPA for sharing this iconic symbol of an important part of U.S. military history with our community. Lots of work goes into the logistics of preparing this aircraft for display, and the Madison American Legion is thrilled to have it displayed in our veterans’ park for the Madison Street Festival this year,” Larry Vannoy said. Vannoy retired as a Colonel from the U.S. Air Force and now serves American Legion as Commander of both the 12th District and Madison Post 229.

The helicopter not only represents the military power of our forces that served in Vietnam but also in every conflict since that era.

The aircraft, a UH-1C/M Huey gunship, 66-00623, flew in Vietnam from 1968 through 1972. “She mostly served with the 170th Assault Helicopter Company, whose gun platoon call sign was ‘Buccaneers,’” Vannoy said. BUC 3, as the helicopter was known, received battle damage from enemy fire at least twice.

In May 1969, the aircraft received five AK-47 rounds in the cockpit. One crewman was wounded.

After 1,417 combat flight hours, the aircraft returned to the United States. In 1974, BUC 3 was transferred to the Kentucky Army National Guard and later to the New York Guard.

In 1988 after 3,095 total flight hours, BUC 3 was designated a QUH-1M target aircraft and transferred to White Sands Missile Range, N.M. In 1989, the helicopter was moved to Redstone Arsenal.

The aircraft served as a target for missile seeker development for 20 years until its transfer from the U.S. Army to Huntsville Veterans Memorial Museum in 2009.

For more information, email LVannoy06@gmail.com or visit americanlegionpost229.org or Facebook/American Legion Post 229.

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