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The Iconic Huey and Bell 205Text and photography by Divan MullerNot only is the Bell Huey one of the most produced helicopter types in aviation history, it also holds the record as the most widely used military helicopter in the world. Its unique looks and distinctive sound also make it easily recognizable. What was the story behind the legendary Huey and its civilian counterparts?The Huey
No aircraft is as closely linked to the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s as the Huey. These helicopters arrived in Southeast Asia in 1962 and soon became indispensable. Ultimately, more than 7 000 Hueys were used in the Vietnam War. From where did these helicopters originate? In the early 1950s, whilst the Korean War was raging in Asia, the U.S. Army announced a requirement for a new medical evacuation (medevac) helicopter. Many companies submitted designs, but Bell which had previously designed the successful Bell 47, was awarded the contract. The prototype, which was designated XH-40, first flew in 1956 and four years later, the army placed an initial order for 100 helicopters. The army named its new helicopter the HU-1 (Helicopter Utility), which resulted in the nickname, 'Huey'. Later, it was renamed UH-1.
Hueys saw extensive service in the Vietnam War and were used as troop transports, medevac aircraft and as gunships. Meanwhile, the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy saw the advantages of using Bell's first mass-produced turboshaft helicopter and placed orders of their own. As Hueys saw increasing combat in Vietnam, the army realised it required a larger version of the helicopter, which could carry more troops in and out of combat areas. This resulted in the UH-1D variant. Its extended fuselage could accommodate more troops, or when used in a medevac role, additional stretchers. The UH-1D also had longer rotor blades, a longer tailboom, more fuel capacity, as well as other improvements, based on lessons learned in combat. Almost 2 600 Hueys were lost in combat or due to operational accidents during the Vietnam War. This was not as a result of vulnerability, but rather the massive amount of sorties flown during the conflict. Hueys had a loss rate of less than one per 8 000 sorties. Bear in mind the incredibly dangerous environment in which the Hueys operated, as well as crew fatigue, which led to accidents. The Bell 205
Internally, Bell engineers referred to initial UH-1s as variants of their Model 204 series. The UH-1D and subsequent variants formed part of the Model 205 series. Bell realised that it had taken a giant leap forward with its Model 204. In 1961, it introduced a civilian version of the UH-1B and called it the Bell 204. Later, it developed a civilian version of the more capable UH-1H, called the Bell 205. Does that mean the Bell 205 is really just a Huey in civilian livery? Not quite. Although the UH-1H and Bell 205 are very similar, the latter has a different type certificate and was developed specifically for the civil market. As with the Bell 204, the Bell 205 was built to a higher standard, with passenger safety in mind. It has, for example, an engine fire extinguisher fitted as standard equipment. The Bell 205 also has more stringent maintenance requirements than its military equivalent. In short, the Bell 205 is certified for full commercial use. Operators around the world have taken full advantage of the Bell 205's incredible versatility. Therefore, Bell 205s have served in a variety of roles, including search and rescue, air ambulance, fire fighting and as general utility helicopters. The helicopter in these photographs was flown and operated by South African company Aeronautic Solutions.
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