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NEWS | Oct. 12, 2012

New home for Huey: Army UH-1H finds a place at IAAFA

By Mike Joseph JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs

The Inter-American Air Forces Academy at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland recently landed a new training tool that upgrades the helicopter maintenance courses it offers to students from Latin American partner nations.

The arrival of an Army UH-1H helicopter at IAAFA's 318th Training Squadron is expected to meet the growing needs of students who are here to learn how U.S. Airmen perform their mission.

"We have a culture of continuous improvement at the 318th TRS, and modernization is a big part of that culture," said Maj. Manuel Sotelo, the squadron's maintenance operations officer.

"We try to modernize to keep up with 21st century technologies, and the demand and requirements of our Latin American partners and students," he said. "This helicopter helps us do that."

As more Latin American countries integrate Huey II helicopters into their fleets, Sotelo said the acquisition of the 1983 UH-1H is just one half of an equation needed to meet new helicopter maintenance requirements.

The other half would involve adding a UH-1N helicopter to the IAAFA inventory. Integrating parts from both the H and N models would allow the academy to assemble a Huey II trainer.

"With the proper equipment, training and personnel, you can take parts from the H and N models to make a Huey II," he said. "We have identified an N model that may become available to us later.

"Then we've got the parts and pieces we need for conversion to what we're calling the 'Frankenstein' option of a Huey II. We can also use the Frankenstein as a training tool for students," he said.

Because expense was a key factor for IAAFA, instructors and senior leaders had to think outside the box to update helicopter maintenance courses.

Sotelo said a kit to modify one of the Vietnam era-helicopters in the IAAFA fleet to a Huey II trainer costs just under $2 million while a new Huey II carries a $9 million price tag.
"Neither of these options was economically feasible for us," he said, "but we weren't going to give up because we couldn't find the money."

Mutual cooperation between several Department of Defense agencies resulted in the transfer of the Army helicopter to the 37th Training Wing, IAAFA's parent organization, instead its original destination - a bone yard.

Flown by two Air Education and Training Command helicopter pilots assigned to Fort Rucker, Ala., the aircraft arrived at here July 24 after a two-day flight.

"Thankfully, Fort Rucker and the Air Force pilots were willing to help by flying it here at minimal cost," Sotelo said. "We're extremely grateful and fortunate. This UH-1H is not something picked up from the junk yard. It's fully functional."