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Pray Someone Comes and Restores This Squad of Barn Find UH-1 Huey Choppers
A group of disused Bell U-1 Iroquois parked outside an airport hangar probably looks like an eyesore. At least if you don't give a rat's rear-end about old warbirds. But to lifelong enthusiasts, it's as close to a genuine barn find as you're likely to find. 

Pray Someone Comes and Restores This Squad of Barn Find UH-1 Huey Choppers

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The gas-turbine-powered UH-1 Iroquois was dubbed the Huey. At least by the people who served with them. It was designed by the renowned Bell Helicopter company. The famous American pioneers of early post-war helicopter technology. The aircraft has become one of the most enduring symbols of the American War in Vietnam.

A brutal conflict that lasted almost two decades and cost countless thousands of casualties on both sides. The Huey helicopters were first introduced to armed forces in 1959. Notably serving in roles like combat evacuation as medical transport craft.

They even served as aerial gunships. Packed to the brim with grenade launchers, rockets, and heavy machine guns. These attack Hueys could rain hellfire over the enemy for an extended period of time. Over 15,000 Bell UH-1 "Hueys" were produced. Between prototypes dating as far back as the mid-1950s until the late 1980s.

In that time, the Huey saw service in three U.S. military branches and with forces overseas. These militaries include Argentina, Germany, Greece, Australia, Japan, Lebanon, and the Philippines. In time, the advanced AH-1 Cobra would take over in the attack helicopter category. That chopper used the same engine and rotor system as the base Huey. The final Huey was withdrawn from U.S. Army in 2016.

Many Hueys would go on to serve in civilian sectors. Hueys were purchased by groups like police forces and medical transport companies. But also fire support units and even as tourism aircraft in the civilian sector. Owing to its reputation for legendary reliability and ease of spare parts acquisition.

Some Hueys in the Army reserve were too worn out and fragile even for civilian service. These examples are stripped of their rotors, engines, and other valuable components. Hence, why they're the U.S Military's idea of a barn find. They're then shipped worldwide for various purposes. Hence, why they're the U.S Military's idea of a barn find.

Some will be sold off for scrap, sadly. Others will find their way onto movie and TV film sets where there's a 50/50 chance whether they're blown up for dramatic effect. As if they were some Dukes of Hazard Dodge Charger. Fewer still will be fast-tracked to final resting places. In military aerospace museum exhibits across the country. Hopefully, to be restored to exhibit quality and showcased by museum-goers for the rest of their natural lives. One such destination is the Air Heritage Museum.

At least seven different UH-1 chassis now find their home at the museum on the grounds of Beaver County Airport in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Either parked outside, or inside auxiliary storage units. This tiny one-hangar museum features at least three flight-ready old warplanes at any given time, including the final Fairchild Provider transport aircraft still in airworthy condition. Meanwhile, the Hueys sit idle, alongside an F-4 Phantom II for company.

Not coincidentally, one of the fighter jets the Huey served alongside in the U.S. Air Force and Navy. These bare shells came to the museum in various states of decay. From places like the Army, Coast Guard, and other surplus supplies. Each one's had its vital electrical and mechanical components removed. All entry doors are sealed off with pieces of sheet metal welded to steel nuts to keep patrons outside.

Not that there's much inside these bare metal husks that merit opening the doors. You can still turn the door latches to your heart's content and pretend you're a Navy SEAL. That's about as close as most of us will ever get to legitimately calling ourselves a member of SEAL Team Six. Faded paint, broken plexiglass, and general decay permeate every orifice of these five Hueys.

Seeing these venerable choppers in this state presents a profoundly more human side to these weapons of war. As if the same traumas and hardship that every member of its crew endured stayed with them for life. But also left its permanent mark on the machines these men used.

These Hueys present themselves as if they cry out at each passer-by in the hope that one day, they'll restore them to their former glory. But wishes to do so in peace, not in conflict. As if its final remaining mortal desire in this world is to fly once again.

But such an undertaking is an expense that not every aircraft museum can commit to. Even if they too would very much love to see them airborne again. The Air Heritage Museum may never have been able to afford the dead carcasses in the first place. If not for their federal 501 (C) (3) tax-exempt charity status.

The museum hopes to restore at least a couple of the chopper's exteriors to period-correct conditions. For now, they sit outside the hangar. Giving passers-by a real glimpse of what the horrors of war can do to a machine, let alone a human being.

 
 
 
 
 

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