Huey UH-1H

Bell Huey UH1H Tail Number: 72-21509 G-UH1H


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Latest News >Huey 509’s foray over the border (by Simon Johnson - Crewmaster)


(Photographs reproduced with kind permission of David Meikle *)

In the six years Huey 509 has been in the UK we can count on one hand the number of times it has flown north of the border.  July the 23rd was going to help our track record as 509 had been booked for the annual East Fortune Airshow at the National Museum of Flight.

The call went out for a crew to man the Huey.  Phil was tied up with business matters as was Neil.  Keith stepped up to the plate and offered to come straight from his canal holiday to Wesham the day before.  I also volunteered to shorten my visit to the War and Peace Show, the biggest military vehicle gathering in Europe (if not the world).  It was decided that we would fly up to Scotland on Saturday morning in time for the air display which started at
1230 hrs.

Keith and his wife Linda arrived at Phil and Jo's on Friday and Keith and Neil put in some training time on the Huey in readiness for the following day.  I drove over on the Saturday morning; 509 was already outside as they had decided not to put it away the night before.

Phil and Keith agreed a flight plan and keyed it into the GPS.  They phoned Blackpool Airport to log the flight and a call was put into Carlisle to have them on stand-by to refuel 509 on its arrival.  With everything sorted we jumped in and secured our overnight bags.  We had to cover ourselves if we needed to overnight as there was an issue of timings and possibly having to refuel twice on the way back and the potential to not get to Carlisle in time before they closed.

A little after ten o'clock Keith pressed the button and the helicopter came to life.  All looked good on a final check on the controls.  We ran through our brief for the flight and the proposed route, Keith pulled pitch and gently lifted 509 into the bright sunny Summer sky. Another check of the controls’ responses and he nosed the Huey out turning north and then to the east to pick up the M6 motorway near Garstang.


The views over the Lancashire countryside were stunning from our cruising height of 1500 feet.  The motorway was busy with traffic heading north and the weather forecast had obviously got people out and about.  Many, we assumed, were heading to Windermere for the Airshow there.  Down below we passed by Lancaster and along over Carnforth; the railway station clearly visible.  Onto Kendal we flew and increased our altitude as the hills below came up to meet us.  At Tebay we changed our course slightly to the west to fly up to Carlisle.  In no time at all we were homing in on the airport and Keith called them on the radio.  They were expecting us and enquired whether we needed to take on fuel - Keith’s response was a very definite 'affirmative'.  Once on the ground we secured the rotors and the tanker pulled up to the side to begin the process of refuelling whilst Keith headed off to the office with fuel chitty in hand to settle up.

Shortly after eleven we lifted once again into an azure blue sky and continued on our way north, this time to Edinburgh.  All was quiet at the ranges of Spadeadam which made our course more of a straight line up over the lowlands, settlements in this part of the world being very few and far between.  It was interesting to see how the forests were being managed with large swathes of trees having been felled and elsewhere we could see where new trees had been planted.  

Our journey north was uneventful except for the head wind which had been slowing our progress down.  On the other hand if the wind didn't change direction it would help us on our way back.

Keith called ahead on the radio to Edinburgh Airport and they asked us to give them another call when we were at Penicuik.  This we did and they talked us in towards the airfield.  Air Traffic Control then asked us to take up a holding pattern just south of the Airport to allow two jets to land before us.  Keith began to orbit around a Golf Course just north of Balerno - our apologies to the golfers who must have been wondering what we were doing!

After about a ten minute wait we given permission by the Air Traffic Controllers to come in and land.  They directed us to the helipads on the eastern side of the Airport and we touched down at 11.40 am.  A refueler was waiting for us as was a mini bus.  After taking on 330 litres of JetA1, Keith clambered into the mini bus to be whisked away to sign for the fuel.  This turned out to take a lot longer than we had anticipated as they had to drive him to the far side of the Airport and then bring him back.

As soon as he returned Keith jumped in and readied for takeoff.  Air traffic Control cleared us to head for the main runway.  Once there they gave Keith the all clear to take off and asked him to fly south of the Airport and to head for the Ski Slope which we identified on the map and then shortly after visually on the ground.  Flying east we flew to the south of Edinburgh and out towards Dalkeith where we changed course for East Fortune.

Unfortunately, due to the earlier wind, it was now after 12.30, our original time of arrival.  We had tuned one of the radios to the display frequency and could hear from the instructions coming over the airwaves that the display had already started.  Listening to the transmissions Keith waited until a suitable moment to announce that we were approaching the airfield.  The Display Controller asked to take up a holding pattern out to the east of the field.  A Vietnam era Bronco also joined us in the holding area.  

After a wait of five minutes or so of watching the display in progress in front of us, we were then given permission to land and to look for an Airshow Marshall on the ground.  I guided Keith in over the trees on the south side of the airfield.  Through the leaves and branches I spotted the Marshall and guided Keith over.  We were on the ground at 12.45 with the rotors soon secured.  We headed over to the Display Control Centre to find out the order of the day and after that we went to get a much needed cup of tea.

Keith was asked to do a 15 minute display at 3.30 pm.  He would then land back on the ground and shut down.  We would then wait until 4.30 pm before being able to take off for home after the display had finished.  




We spoke to some of the enthusiastic crowd about the Huey, including showing Nigel Griffiths around the Huey, and explained what we going to do.  

Keith and I had both been thinking about our return flight.  Conscious of the timings at Carlisle we sat down to work out what our fuel burn rate had been and how much fuel we would have left after the 15 minute display.  

It looked like we were going to have to fly to Edinburgh to refuel, in which case we would not make Carlisle in time, however Keith came up with a fuel and time saving solution to our dilemma.  If he was to do a twelve or thirteen minute display, then land on to allow Linda and I to get back on board whilst the Huey was still burning and turning and then take off immediately we would have enough fuel and plenty of time to make Carlisle.

(Photographs reproduced with kind permission of David Meikle *)

With this game plan Keith headed off to the organisers to see if it was possible. They readily agreed as they would get another landing of the Huey as part of the display into the bargain. So, plan agreed we headed back out to the Huey to get it ready for the display.  

At 3.25 pm Keith pressed the button, I did the walk round to check all was good and then retreated to the flight line.

At 3.30 pm on the dot 509 took to the sky to start her display. Keith flew her around the sky with a variety of moves to show it off at its best and to allow the photographers and crowd to see it from all angles.  The minutes quite literally flew by with the crowd mesmerised and a great commentary and music thrown in for good measure.  
Suitably long gaps were left so the eleven and a half thousand crowd could hear 509’s distinctive signature sound that Keith was milking for all he was worth.

Please follow this YouTube link for footage of Huey 509’s Air Display:-   

(With kind thanks to loyal Huey Supporter, Alan Brown, for the filming)

509 landed on and Linda and I headed out to get Keith's permission to approach then climb in.  Linda jumped in the back and we made sure she was strapped in and had a head set on. I jumped in the front and strapped in.  

Happy all was good, Keith asked permission to take off which was duly given.  Rising quickly he nosed 509 over and started to climb whilst turning south to leave the display area as soon as was possible.

With the aid of the GPS and map we set our course for Carlisle using wind farms and other land marks to help keep us on track.  


(Photograph reproduced with kind permission of David Meikle *)

We had a good tail wind which helped our groundspeed no end and helped reduce the fuel burn.  The sky was even clearer than before and we made Carlisle nearly ten minutes earlier than we had calculated.

When we had refuelled we headed to the Stobard Café for a drink and a sandwich.  Both aircraft and crew refuelled, on our return to the Huey there was a small crowd of admirers, who were helicopter instructors and airport staff, looking round her on the ramp.  After we gave them a guided tour we said our goodbyes and prepared to depart.  They all stood back and waited for our noisy departure (we never disappoint!).  

This time we only had the map for navigation as the GPS had decided to throw in the towel and wipe all the flight plans stored in it!  It also reverted back to the standard default of the layout to 'landscape' .......... not much use as the unit is mounted vertically.  Still, it was a fairly straight forward journey using the M6 motorway and the Lake District as our main references.

With the wind behind us soon we were over Kendal and Lancaster setting our sights on the wind turbine at Garstang and on to Wesham.  By six o'clock we were on the ground and the Huey tucked up inside.  It was a fabulous way to spend a Saturday, meeting really warm and welcoming people at East Fortune who were genuinely pleased to see the Huey do her thing.

Our thanks to the Airshow Organisers for putting on such a great event and to the crowd that turned out to make it such a satisfying day.

(*David Meikle -