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Huey gets help from volunteers

The Vietnam-era Huey helicopter in downtown Williamson is getting a much-needed makeover thanks to the efforts of men in the aviation industry who volunteered their time to make the improvements happen. Delta technician Joe Stewart and retired U.S. Army pilot Bill James joined forces to clean out the interior of the helicopter and patch areas of the exterior to prepare the helicopter for paint. Others who helped with the project included Delta technicians Tim Powers and Dave Keaton, Todd Thaxton of Atlanta Air Salvage and Debbie Stewart. Powers helped with repairs on the tail boom and Powers and Keaton helped load the main rotor blades on a trailer for Thaxton to transport them to the DeltaOps hanger in Atlanta. The volunteers worked to repair issues with the helicopter and get it a fresh coat of paint with new lettering all at no cost to the city. They arranged for Atlanta Air Salvage to move the helicopter to the DeltaOps paint shop after they removed the rotor blades and mast so it was be able to pass under power lines on the way to the shop. Todd Thaxton of Atlanta Air Salvage donated the trailer and time to transport the helicopter to Delta TechOps for a new paint job. Once the project is complete, they may place the helicopter on a stand so it won’t be as close to the ground to prevent it from rusting in the future. ’We stripped out the seats and 20 years of dirt and we had to carefully prepare it for transportation since there are specifications that have to be met to move it on the highway,’ said James who went through flight school in 1968 and 1969 flying the same type of helicopter. He then flew Cobra Gun Ships from 1969-70 in Vietnam and retired from the Army in 2002. He has seen the need for the helicopter’s renovation for many years since he lives in Fayetteville and keeps an airplane at Peach State Airport in Williamson. ’We saw that it had fallen into disrepair and that there were attempts to vandalize it, so we decided to try to fix that,’ said James. The two arranged for the historic helicopter to be painted at Delta TechOps which provided the labor for free. Instead of the same matte green, the helicopter’s new paint job will be glossy to prevent the mold that had built up on the outer panels. The shop will also create stencils for lettering on the helicopter that will match the markings on helicopters that saw service in Asia during the Vietnam War. The Huey was the first type of helicopter Stewart worked on when he started his career in aviation. He’s been working as a technician at Delta Airlines for 35 years now. ’It was so sad to see it in such bad condition,’ he said. ‘I hope it’s going to be a great improvement when it’s done. We want people to look at it and be proud to have it in the city.’

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