German Armed Forces Retired Bell UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" After 53 Years of Service
German Armed Forces Retired Bell UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" After 53 Years of Service

German Armed Forces Retired Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” After 53 Years of Service

In Bückeburg, Lower Saxony on June 23, 2021, a rich, thumping sound rang above the helicopter museum near the moated castle. The characteristic outline of the “carpet beater,” as the Bell UH-1D is often called in the Bundeswehr, appeared in the sky. The two rotors with the powerful engine, to which this nickname is owed, “beat” at 324 revolutions per minute. As the aircraft approached the landing field, the special black-and-orange livery appeared: soldiers waving to a Huey taking off, with the words “Goodbye Huey” written in large cursive letters above it.

The Huey has become a piece of transatlantic history through its long service in the German armed forces. When the Bundeswehr needed a light, multi-purpose helicopter in the 1960s, the world’s leading aviation technology came from the United States. The fact that the Bundeswehr chose Bell in its search for the best available technology underpinned the strong and trusting relations between the Federal Republic and the United States in the days of Adenauer, Eisenhower, Erhard and Kennedy.

This spectacular entry of the Huey was made possible by the initiative of soldiers. The decommissioning of the Bundeswehr helicopter was brought to a fitting end with a farewell tour. And so, from April 2020 to June 2021, they flew to several Bundeswehr locations in the machine with this special livery, before the last flight to the Helicopter Museum in Bückeburg, Lower Saxony. Those involved wanted to express their appreciation for this piece of essential equipment, which has served generations of soldiers in training and on duty.

German Armed Forces Retired Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” After 53 Years of Service (Photo by Peter Straub/Bundeswehr)

The Bell UH-1D convinced them with its smooth maintenance and conversion possibilities, thanks to simple construction, easy and intuitive control characteristics for landing on diverse terrain, and a large cabin that can transport up to 13 persons or 1760kg goods with low empty weight. In 1968, Bell delivered the first helicopters to the German Armed Forces. They were used for a wide range of missions over the course of five decades, including personnel transport, fighting forest fires and floods, as well as search and rescue operations. In all its missions over the past decades, Bell’s Huey has proven to be a reliable, versatile and virtually indestructible partner.

The Bell UH-1 Iroquois (nicknamed “Huey”) is a utility military helicopter powered by a single turboshaft engine, with two-bladed main and tail rotors. The first member of the prolific Huey family, it was developed by Bell Helicopter to meet a 1952 US Army requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter, and first flew in 1956. The UH-1 was the first turbine-powered helicopter produced for the United States military, and more than 16,000 have been built since 1960.[1]

The Iroquois was originally designated HU-1, hence the Huey nickname, which has remained in common use, despite the official redesignation to UH-1 in 1962.[2] The UH-1 first saw service in combat operations during the Vietnam War, with around 7,000 helicopters deployed. The Bell 204 and 205 are Iroquois versions developed for the civil market.