Air And Space Museum Honors Vietnam Vets

All this month Tulsa's Air and Space Museum is honoring our Vietnam Veterans.

As part of that effort, they're restoring a Bell "Huey" helicopter for the museum's collection.

It will be unveiled at the annual Aviator Ball, that has the theme, "Welcome Home from Vietnam."

It's appropriate because this area has plenty of Vietnam Vets and a large number of former chopper pilots, who flew into harms way.

We spoke with several of them about the chopper restoration and their flying in Vietnam.

Scott Petty, of Petty's Fine Food, flew a Huey with an assault helicopter unit in 1971 to 72.

He supported for elite South Korean troops that were part of the war effort.

Petty says he's proud of his service.

"It was scary at times, but we had so many good people we worked with. i enjoyed the flying, so it was good experience overall."

Petty says they flew a wide variety of missions, from hauling supplies to medical evacuations.

But their primary job, was taking troops to and from jungle missions.

He says flying under fire was challenging, with lots of screaming, smoke and gunfire. But flying in those time was so demanding, you really didn't have time to get scared.

"One time a round came right through our instrument panel and I didn't even know it.

Our crew chief asked me how's the aircraft performing and there was no gauge.

So I said we don't have any manifold pressure that i can tell you about."

Richard McClain is another Tulsan who flew a Huey.

He served in the Mekong Delta in 1970 and 71.

He says even very good training they received, wasn't enough to get them ready for flying night combat missions, 365 days a year.

"People have asked, wasn't it scary all the time.

I say no, you learned when to be leery, or to know when things were getting ready to happen and you increased your intensity."

McClain says they were professionals and always managed to make things work, no matter what.

"Before every mission there's a plan and as soon as the first helicopter cranks up, the plan just goes out the door."

Hobart Hammond was also a pilot in the war.

While he flew twin-rotor Chinooks and scout helicopters in 1969, but he's become deeply involved in the museums Huey restoration.

He felt the project was important, because without a Huey the museum's collection would never be complete.

"Thousands of people who live within a hundred miles of Tulsa came with in contact with the Huey in one form or another.

They flew 15-million sorties in Vietnam.

They had thousands of them over there."

The chopper will have the original paint scheme restored, before it goes on display at this year Aviator Ball.

Some of the choppers former crew members will be on had for the event.

It's April 27th at American Airlines Hangar 80.

Tickets are available through the museum.

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