Time to say farewell to a legend! The SAR command of the Transport Helicopter Regiment 30 (Transporthubschrauberregiment 30 / THR 30) at Niederstetten changed from the venerable Bell UH-1D „Huey“ to the modern Airbus Helicopters H145 LUH SAR on 6th July 2020.
Where? Niederstetten Airfield, Germany
Good Bye Bell UH-1D Huey!
Niederstetten became the first of a total of three German SAR bases to make the transfer to this new Light Utility Helicopter for Search And Rescue (LUH SAR) tasks of the Bundeswehr. Nörvenich will become the next site on 7th December 2020, and Holzdorf will be the third and final location to change to the new helicopter on 12 April 2021.
In the timeframe from December 2019 to the end of May 2020 seven H145 LUH SAR were handed over to the Bundeswehr at the production site of Airbus Helicopters at Donauwörth. Before being assigned to their actual task, those helicopters were used to train future crews and to achieve their mission qualification.
Operation at the open heart
The delivery of the helicopters was performed on time and on cost, which was well highlighted from all sides during the official handover ceremony at Niederstetten. With reference to the helicopter’s medical missions, the commander of THR 30, Colonels Peter Göhringer described the transition phase from the Huey to the H145 as an „operation at the open heart“. It had the particular challenge for the SAR Squadron to manage the training of all 51 pilots and 24 air rescue officers on the new helicopter, while still operating the Huey and keeping it ready for any type of rescue mission on a 24/7 basis.
A giant leap for Germany’s SAR service
Big orange doors with huge SAR letters were the Huey’s unambiguous sign as a life-saver from the sky. The H145 LUH SAR, which is now introduced is a replacement, does not only adapt this recognition feature from its predecessor with an even larger number of high visibility orange panels, it also brings several new and vital capabilities. When compared to the nearly 50 year old Bell UH-1D, the H145 LUH SAR crew now has an EO-sensor including a thermal imaging camera and search landing light at its disposal that will ease the search for missing persons during day and night. Furthermore additionally equipment is installed for the detection of mobile phones.
After the speeches a short capability demonstration of the H145 LUH SAR was shown. It included the application of the rescue hoist, fire fighting using a water bucket and and the transportation of heavy cargo load. When this flying display was finished, the H145 LUH SAR landed on the helipad in front of the SAR squadron.
Changing of the SAR guards
Still one hour ago, as it was the case for the last decades, this place was still occupied by the venerable Huey. With the H145 LUH SAR landing there for the first time, it was not only a symbolic change, but the actual change of guards for the SAR Squadron.
The Bell UH-1D Huey that also took place in the short flying display was parked far away. They will still be flown by older crew members who will not transfer to the H145 anymore. Instead they will ensures a ten month long transition phase for the SAR command until the end of April 2021, when it will be a final „Goodbye Huey “!
The Fly Out Special Scheme Tour
For the Fly Out of the Bell UH-1D Huey, the pilots of Niederstetten created a striking “Goodbye Huey” special scheme. The colorful scheme depicts a Huey flying into the sunset, with people standing on ground, saluting the helicopter for its life-saving service and waving farewell.
Unfortunately for the team behind this special scheme, all of the planned public appearances at airshows and other festivities were cancelled due to COVID-19. It remains to be seen if there will be possibilities to make up for some of these next years and to finally present the “Goodbye Huey” to the public. The timeframe to do so until the end of April will be very short.
For any update it is worth visiting the Good Bye Huey website at http://www.goodbyehuey.de
Photo Gallery of the Fly Out Bell UH-1D SAR event
Sidenote: It should also be mentioned that despite the marking as H145M on the outside of the helicopters, those LUH SAR are based on the non-militarized version of the H145, even though they are operated by a military customer. Therefore the correct naming is H145 LUH SAR.