Fairchild Huey reaches 18,000 flight hours

36RQS 18000 hour flight

Master Sgt. Joshua Walker, 36th Rescue Squadron NCO in-charge of scheduling, conducts preflight checks before taking off for the 18,000 hour flight Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash, Jan. 11, 2018. Quality maintenance is what keeps the Hueys in the air. They receive routine inspections, one-time inspections and every eight years they go to a depot in North Carolina to receive a complete overhaul where the helicopter is taken apart and any structural or corrosion issues are fixed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

36RQS 18000 hour flight

UH-1N Huey number 6648 is towed onto the flight line before taking off for the 18,000 hour flight Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash, Jan. 11, 2018. The 36th RQS also has the most diverse mission set of any singular UH-1N unit in the Air Force, conducting 625 missions a year with an average mission time of two and a half hours. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

36RQS 18000 hour flight

UH-1N Huey number 6648 hits the 18,000 hour flight mark Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash, Jan. 11, 2018. UH-1N Huey number 6648 arrived at Fairchild Air Force Base in April of 1971 and has flown all of its missions from here since. The first Hueys made their Air Force debut in 1970 as a search and rescue capability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

36RQS 18000 hour flight

The Crew of UH-1N Huey number 6648 LT Col. Chad Kohout, 36th Rescue Squadron Commander, Captain Tristan Fitzgerald, 36RQS chief of standards and evaluations, and Master Sgt. Joshua Walker, 36th RQS NCO in-charge of scheduling, stand in from of the helicopter after landing. A 36th Rescue Squadron UH-1N Huey number 6648 achieved more than 18,000 flight hours, the most flight hours for this airframe in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- A 36th Rescue Squadron UH-1N Huey number 6648 achieved more than 18,000 flight hours, here Jan. 11, the most flight hours for this airframe in the Air Force.

UH-1N Huey number 6648 arrived at Fairchild Air Force Base in April of 1971 and has flown all of its missions from here since. The first Hueys made their Air Force debut in 1970 as a search and rescue capability.

The Fairchild-based helicopter is a light lift, utility helicopter, capable of completing medical evacuations, search and rescue, security and surveillance, and several other mission sets. Depending on the configuration of the aircraft, it can carry up to 13 people or six medical litters.

“Fairchild’s Hueys were built in 1969 and the first two arrived on April 3, 1971. The 36th RQS was originally created as the 48th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, which started out with 140 Airmen and nine aircraft,” said Lt Col. Chad Kohout, 36th Rescue Squadron commander. “Since then, they’ve fluctuated in size and name to the present-day 28 Airmen and four helicopters with the name 36th Rescue Squadron.”

The 36th RQS also has the most diverse mission set of any singular UH-1N unit in the Air Force, conducting 625 missions a year with an average mission time of two and a half hours. Different duties for the Huey include airlift of emergency security forces, security and surveillance of off-base nuclear weapons convoys, distinguished visitor airlift, disaster response operations, search and rescue, medical evacuation, airborne cable inspections, support to aircrew survival school, aerial testing, routine missile site support and transportation.

“The mission here at Fairchild is the most widely varied mission set of any Huey unit in the Air Force,” said Kohout. “The 36th RQS provides support to the 336th Training Group helping with the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training of Department of Defense members and international partners. For the SERE school they provide medical evacuation coverage and are the only Huey unit to support cargo sling, water survival training and para-rescue drop.”

Quality maintenance is what keeps the Hueys in the air. They receive routine inspections, one-time inspections and every eight years they go to a depot in North Carolina to receive a complete overhaul where the helicopter is taken apart and any structural or corrosion issues are fixed.

“From changing oil and filters to being sent to a depot to be rebuilt, everything is maintained on the helicopters,” said Kohout. “It’s because of excellent maintenance and the maintainers that the Hueys are still in the air”

The Air Force has been trying to replace the Huey for decades, said Master Sgt. Joshua Walker, 36th RQS NCO in-charge of scheduling. It has yet to be replaced because the UH-1N continues to perform better than was ever expected and various replacement programs over the years have not succeeded.

“There is a lot of significance about this helicopter,” said Walker. “We have all been in different units flying different aircraft that have all been swapped around from base to base. This is the only one that has been in service this long assigned to one base and has flown this much while there.”