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Helicopter to be moved to Wilson County Veterans Museum

Staff Reports • Jun 14, 2017 at 2:59 PM

Wilson County officials plan to move a now-restored Vietnam War-era helicopter Thursday from the Wilson County sheriff’s firing range at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center to its permanent home in the Wilson County Veterans Museum next to the courthouse.

“It has been completely restored and will be the focal point for our county's museum,” said Wilson County Commissioner Jerry McFarland.

Weather permitting, the effort will start Thursday at 10 a.m. and should take about four hours.

Lebanon police officers plan to assist with traffic control and road closures. Motorists traveling on Baddour Parkway and North Cumberland Street from the fairgrounds to the Lebanon Square may experience delays.

The UH-1 Huey helicopter was brought from Nashville to Lebanon last June to start renovations on the Vietnam War-era bird.

According to McFarland, the helicopter is on loan from the state of Tennessee. McFarland said the UH-1 Huey helicopter was used to fly U.S. soldiers to Vietnam from 1966-68, and the Tennessee National Guard later used it from 1980-85. The state acquired the helicopter and used it as a training aid most recently, McFarland said.

The aircraft’s interior and exterior will be restored; the outside will be repainted to its original olive drab, and nose art and the tail number will be added, McFarland said last year.

“There is a lot of history with this aircraft,” McFarland said.

According to McFarland, former Wilson County sheriff and current Commissioner Terry Ashe flew in an UH-1 in the Vietnam War as part of the 48th Assault Helicopter Co. attached to the 101st Airborne, which is based out of Fort Campbell, Ky. The 48th AHC was active from Nov. 6, 1965 until Aug. 23, 1972 and participated in 16 campaigns in the Vietnam War, according to military historians.

The particular UH-1 was active in Vietnam from 1966-68, when it was sent back to the U.S. to replace the engine with a heavier engine. It never returned to Vietnam, McFarland said.

In combat, it was able to fit 13 people, by weight. However, if there was equipment to be shipped, then fewer people could fly in the machine.

Later, when the Tennessee National Guard received the revamped UH-1, McFarland was part of a crew that flew them in the United States. The helicopter was based out of Smyrna. The National Guard replaced the UH-1 when the units began to fly Blackhawk helicopters, McFarland said.

The transport of the historic aircraft last year involved the chopper loaded onto a lowboy trailer and strapped securely. The UH-1 is about 50-52 feet in length, McFarland said, with rotors that are 48 feet in length.

Visitors to the museum will be able to go into the helicopter, put on headsets and talk back and forth as if they were riding in the machine. The engine components will be removed and only enough power to light and work the console and headsets will be used.

Correspondent Angie Mayes contributed to this report.

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