FORT RUCKER, Ala. (WDHN) — It was a semisweet day for aviators of Fort Rucker as they said goodbye to the TH-67 helicopter, which has been training pilots for almost 30 years.
The aircraft was flown onto Fort Rucker in 1993 and has been in service until this Wednesday, with the last flight happening at night with the class of 2023. For many, it was an emotional goodbye.
“Many of these people were here in 1993 and watched this helicopter arrive,” Lieutenant Colonel Keith Hill said. “They watched it integrate into our formations so they’re definitely going to miss it.”
Hill even spoke on his own memories with the helicopter, remembering he was standing next to it when hearing the news about 9/11.
The ceremony concluded with Hill’s speech, and then aviators and spectators were allowed to take photos and say goodbye to the helicopters.
“Yeah this is a pretty sad moment for a lot of aviators,” Fort Rucker Aviation Historian Kenneth Tilley said. “It’s sad to see any helicopter leave the inventory, but this is actually the last bell helicopter and the Army has been flying bell helicopters since 1946 continuously.”
“So this is kind of the end of an era,” Tilley added. “Now there’s new Bell helicopters that are in the testing and prototype stages for the future, but for now, we won’t have a bell helicopter in inventory.”
Despite the sadness, many stories and good memories were shared between attending aviators as they were comforted, knowing their training will remain part of history.