TH-67 Soars to Historic Aviation Milestone
February 22, 2007
By Marti Gatlin
FORT RUCKER, Al. (TRADOC News Service, Feb. 21, 2007) -- After more than a dozen years, Fort Rucker's instructor-pilots, students and maintenance crews reached an Army Aviation milestone here Jan. 16 - the one millionth flight hour in the TH-67 Creek training helicopter.
Used to train initial entry rotary wing students in primary, instrument and basic warfighting skills, the Creek is a Bell Model 206B Jet Ranger III built by Bell Helicopter Textron.
To mark the event, Steven Dodge, Lear Siegler Services, Inc. primary instructor pilot; WO1 Jacob Rettig, student; and Jeffery Bowden, Army Fleet Support flightline mechanic; presented U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center and Fort Rucker commanding general Maj. Gen. Virgil L. Packett II, a framed, commemorative memento at a celebration held Feb. 8 in the new Cairns Army Airfield maintenance hangar.
Packett said the one millionth hour is a remarkable example of combining bureaucracy, leadership and industry to train more than 15,000 aviators, and the TH-67 Creek has allowed and enabled Soldiers to become Army Aviators in safe and reliable ways.
Replacing the UH-1H Iroquois (Huey), the first TH-67 Creek arrived here Oct. 15, 1993.
Maj. Gen. Dave Robinson, then the 16th commanding general of U.S. Army Aviation Center and Fort Rucker, and CW3 Howard Swan logged the first flight hour in the 01C model, according to post historical accounts. Robinson, now retired, and Swan, a chief warrant officer 5, attended the one millionth flight hour commemoration, in which the first TH-67 was displayed.
Over time, Robinson said, some modifications have been made to the TH-67 such as removing the rear seat flight instrument panel and adding air conditioning. He called the aircraft resilient and said it handled well in repeated emergency-procedures training as well as actual, random emergencies. Robinson recalled an incident when an instructor-pilot was knocked unconscious from a bird strike through a cockpit.
"Training in the TH-67 is far more than stick wiggling," Robinson said. "It is where we first touch the soul of a warrior - an intangible thrust inside the being of all combat aviators."
Dodge and Rettig flew the historic one millionth training hour.
In June 1994, Dodge flew the first training flight with two students in the TH-67 Creek after its arrival here.
Dodge served 20 years as an Army Aviator before his current position.
"I'm happy to be a part of history, and represent the former and present instructor-pilots and maintenance crews working towards this milestone. It was just as satisfying as the first training flight," said Dodge, who's originally from Fort Plain, N.Y. "The TH-67 has met and far exceeded all the safety and training requirements the Army could have asked for in my opinion."
Rettig, who joined the Army about 10 months ago, said he was honored to fly the one millionth hour with Dodge.
"I've always wanted to fly, and I have always been interested in it since I was a kid," said the 20-year-old Milwaukee native.
Among the Creek Indian Nation members attending Thursday's ceremony and who took part in the helicopter's acceptance ceremony, was Tim Martin, Creek Indian Enterprises president.
"As (Maj. Gen. Packet) indicated, we're proud of the fact that the Creek is the base training model for the Army Aviators of today," Martin said. "In this time of war all over the world, we certainly take pride in the fact that the Creek is the helicopter that's been training our troops to go. We were here in 1993 to put it into service."
Since the Army acquired the TH-67 Creek, student grades have improved, the course failure rate has been cut in half, and the helicopter has provided a highly reliable student- and instructor-friendly, low-cost airframe for nearly 15,000 future Army Aviators, post officials said.
The TH-67 Creek was selected to improve training and reduce costs to American taxpayers by $29 million annually and more than a half billion dollars over the lifetime of the program. Today, Lear Siegler Services, Inc. provides the flight training contract and Army Fleet Support furnishes maintenance support.