April 4, 2020 at 12:54 pm
Members of the Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association -- in an effort headed by Bill Monk -- worked for years to make Saturday’s placement of a HU 1B Huey helicopter a part of the Vietnam War display at Patriot’s Park near Noccalula Falls Park. The helicopter was acquired and moved last year to the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport while a display pad was prepared for it, and arrangements were made to move it to the park.
Bill Monk of the Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association, and personnel from Kelton and Hare Wrecker service helped haul the Helicopter from the Airport to Patriots Park on Friday, only to find they’d have to wait. [Donna Thornton/The Gadsden Times]
Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association member Ben Reed said Saturday it only took 20 years to get bring a mechanized veteran of the Vietnam War to Patriots Park.
He gave the credit for Saturday’s placement of the UH 1B Huey helicopter to GEPA member Bill Monk. Monk said it took two years of working in earnest to get bring this addition to the park near Noccalula Falls.
The helicopter was placed on a display pad at Patriots Park Saturday — the end of its long journey that included stops at about eight locations in the U.S., Vietnam and at Fort Rucker, Monk said.
Moving the helicopter from Northeast Alabama Regional Airport where it’s been housed was a challenge. Monk said part of the wait was for the pad to be built at Patriots Park and part was to have the means to move it.
Jamie Kelton, owner of Kelton Wrecker Service
The effort to move the helicopter started Friday, when Kelton and his crew brought the wrecker out with a remotely controlled arm to lift the helicopter so it could be moved.
As they prepared to lift the helicopter, Kelton said, Chad Hare of Hare Wrecker, who was scouting possible routes to the park had questions about the height of the chopper, and whether it, when placed on the transport trailer, safely would go under power lines and traffic signals.
“We got scared yesterday,” Kelton said Saturday morning, but they were able to bring in ER Towing’s lower-bed trailer to move the helicopter and safely made it under all overhead obstructions.
At the falls, Kelton’s wrecker and the truck hauling the helicopter carefully were positioned near the pad, so that cables could be attached the arm raisded to lift the helicopter to the pad.
The helicopter now will be part of Patriot Park’s display, along with munitions from the conflict that will be displayed nearby.
The Huey was built in 1962 — one of only 710 of that model. Monk said after the association acquired the helicopter, the transmission cowling was lost in transport, and finding a replacement was a chore with the relatively small number of the helicopters made.
Monk said that cowling is a slightly different color that the rest of the helicopter. It was white when he got it and he had to paint it.
The association took care to have the helicopter repaired and restored as accurately as possible. Most people wouldn’t know the difference, Monk said, but some helicopter person, he said, would be able to tell.
After the helicopter was in place, association members hoped to move a large propeller from one side of the park to the other, as they continue to enhance the park as a memorial to all service people, from all the nation’s conflicts.