A unique piece of Army aviation's developmental history has been discovered and saved during a renovation within the Program Executive Office for Aviation's Turbine Engine project office.
Richard Crabtree, an Improved Turbine Engines Program integrator, realized that a piece of artwork being replaced in the office wasn't just a random decoration, but actually represented the advancement of aviation history.
The acrylic painting portrays a Bell 207 Sioux Scout in flight. An experimental attack helicopter developed in the early 1960s, the Sioux Scout was a proof-of-concept demonstrator based on a modified and outdated Bell 47 helicopter. Its design featured stub wings, a tandem cockpit and a chin-mounted gun turret.
While the Army didn't pursue further development of the Sioux Scout, they were impressed and its concept launched the Advanced Aerial Fire Support System program that led to the eventual production of the AH-56 Cheyenne heavy attack helicopter. After the cancellation of the Cheyenne program, the Army pursued a new advanced attack helicopter candidate which resulted in selection of the AH-64 Apache.
Depicting an experimental aircraft doesn't immediately make this particular artwork stand out, but the specific details in the image do.
"It is important because there was only one Bell 207 Sioux Scout made and it now resides in the Fort Rucker U.S. Army Aviation Museum's experimental collection," Crabtree said. "You can see in the picture that the experimental designation numbers in the painting match the only Bell 207 Sioux Scout, which is really cool."
When Crabtree realized the fate of the artwork was destined for storage to be forgotten, he took immediate steps to intervene. He contacted the Army Aviation Museum's curator. Crabtree hopes the painting will make its way to Fort Rucker in the near future and be displayed alongside its inspiration -- the sole existing Bell 207 Sioux Scout.
While the Sioux Scout had a short-lived journey, it set in motion the development of attack helicopters. Together, the aircraft and its painted likeness provide an opportunity to remind aviation enthusiasts how far aviation innovation has come and reinforce the Army's ability to learn from its past and strive to innovate and modernize the fleet to ensure our Soldiers have the right equipment they need to fight.