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Take a ride in a Cobra attack helicopter at air museum in California

By SANDRA EMERSON | Redlands (Calif.) Daily Facts (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 13, 2018

The aircraft that helped make air warfare possible for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War is on display and available for flights to the public at the Chino Airport.

For the second year, the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation has its AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, named the Black Pearl, stationed outside the Yanks Air Museum, 7000 Merrill Ave. #35-A270, through the summer.

“The purpose of displaying the aircraft and having people fly in it is to convey the history of Army aviation, primarily,” said Steve Lund, officer in charge of the Southern California detachment of the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation.

Built in 1967, the Cobra was developed from the Huey transport helicopter. It was the first purpose-built helicopter gunship to enter military service, according to the foundation’s website.

It was the backbone of the Army’s attack aviation from its debut in South Vietnam until the 1980s and ’90s, when it was replaced by the AH-64 Apache, according to the foundation.

“The initial gunships we had were the short-bodied Hueys with gun kits on them — with maybe a third of the firepower. And they were slower, so the whole formation had to fly slower,” said Lund, who like other members of the detachment flew helicopters for the Army during the Vietnam War.

“Once we had a dedicated gunship, the tactics were able to be changed forever more.”

While the Cobra originally was built according to military specifications, it has since been demilitarized and certified under Federal Aviation Administration rules to meet civilian requirements for flying and carrying passengers, said Andy Hoder, member of the Southern California detachment.

Those who wish to pay for a ride in the helicopter will ride in the gunner’s seat as the pilot takes them on a mock mission.

“You’ve got the guy in the back seat flying the aircraft and the passenger up front,” said Jim Davidson, a member of the detachment. “It’s a one-on-one demonstration of what we can do, what we can’t do and how it was done in Vietnam.”

The helicopter is primarily based in Mesa, Ariz., but due to the hot summer weather, the foundation was in need of an alternate location.

The helicopter made its debut for its second summer season at the Planes of Fame Air Show at the Chino Airport May 5-6.

During its stay in Southern California, it will offer flights at the Chino Airport and will make appearances at numerous other air shows.

“We’re going to do the air show circuit again, show the people what we can do and give rides,” Davidson said. “We’ve had a lot of veterans come out with their families and say, ‘I’ll take five rides,’ and we start loading the people in and they fly. They just love it.”

The helicopter’s presence at the Yanks Air Museum adds a unique perspective, said James Noriega Jr., curator at the nonprofit museum that collects, restores and preserves historic American aircraft.

After checking out the Black Pearl, visitors can go inside the museum and see hundreds of other aircraft from the early days of aviation to modern-day jets, including Vietnam and World War II-era aircraft, such as a Bell UH-1H Huey, a Lockheed P-38L Lightning and a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B Hornet, which flew with the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demo team.

“The Yanks Air Museum and Army Aviation Heritage Foundation are both about educating the public about the service of the men and women who served our country,” Noriega said. “By coming together, it really creates a whole new perspective and allows us to benefit each other and see each others’ goals fulfilled.”

The Black Pearl will head to the Wings and Rotor Air Museum at the French Valley Airport in Murrieta on May 19 and 20.

It will be at the Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show at Boys Republic in Chino Hills June 2 and the Western Museum of Flight at the Torrance Airport June 16.

It will appear at the Wings Over Camarillo Airshow on Aug. 17 and 19.

Flying days are planned for July 14 and 28, Aug. 8, Sept. 8 and Sept. 22 at the Yanks Air Museum.

For more information or to schedule a flight, call 480-217-1635 or visit https://armyav.org/arizona-so-cal/.

©2018 the Redlands Daily Facts (Redlands, Calif.)
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