At its 12th annual Hangar Party, Aviation Heritage Park will unveil the Vietnam-era helicopter the group has been restoring for months.
Bob Pitchford, a member of AHP’s board of directors, said the group is ready to show off the restored HU-1 “Huey” helicopter it acquired in February 2017, which will be the focal point of the upcoming Hangar Party.
“We’re going to be doing a big reveal for our guests at the Hangar Party,” he said.
The event begins at 5 p.m. June 16 at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport.
Tickets $40 for adults and $15 for children and can be purchased in Bowling Green at Ford’s Furniture, Nat’s, the Chuck’s Liquors location on Three Springs Road and Barbara Stewart Interiors, as well as at aviationheritagepark.com.
According to Pitchford, the opening ceremony and unveiling is scheduled for 6 p.m., with dinner at 6:30.
Local band Bueler’s Day Off will play a set from roughly 8 to 10 p.m., Pitchford said.
The Huey made a public appearance at last year’s Hangar Party, a few months after AHP acquired it from the United States Air Force’s aircraft storage facility in Tucson, Ariz., known as the Boneyard and before its restoration, he said.
“It was dirty, it had spent her last 35 years in the desert but we were so proud of it,” he said.
AHP had previously been looking for a Huey for six years, Pitchford said, adding that AHP wanted a Huey so it could serve as a tool for telling the story of U.S. Army pilot Col. Raymond T. Nutter, who died in 2006.
According to Nutter’s Daily News obituary, he earned several citations for valor during his time in Vietnam, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the country’s second-highest medal for valor.
The Huey was the most widely used aircraft of the Vietnam War, Pitchford said.
“It is the sight and sound of the Vietnam War,” he said.
During the restoration process, members of AHP would get frequent visits from Vietnam veterans who wanted to see the Huey, Pitchford said.
“Every time that we had a visitor and they told us their story, it just fueled us,” he said.
“We could feel their passion for the helicopter.”
Pitchford said he’s proud of the restoration, which involved painting the Huey green to reflect Nutter’s background in the Army and tiger decals on the doors to reflect Nutter’s involvement with the 121st Aviation Company, also known as the Soc Trang Tigers.
“It looks better than when it was rolled out of the Bell Helicopter factory,” he said.
Though the Huey will be the Hangar Party’s centerpiece, Pitchford said he expects the event to have roughly 20 to 30 aircraft on display.
The roster of aircraft will include a Black Hawk helicopter and may include a Spartan Executive that once belonged to Howard Hughes, and several T6 Texans, which were used as training planes during World War II, though many owners of the aircraft may decide not to bring them if the weather isn’t cooperative, Pitchford said.
“They won’t decide on whether to bring their antique and unusual aircraft until the day before and they know what the weather will be,” he said.
The theme of this year’s Hangar Party is Warriors Remembered, which Pitchford said is in tribute to the Vietnam War soldiers who weren’t warmly welcomed back to the U.S. after their tours. “We’re honoring Colonel Nutter but in passing we’re also honoring all our veterans,” he said.