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Huey returns home

Williamson’s iconic Vietnam-era Huey helicopter returned to town recently and a rededication ceremony and celebration for the volunteers who made it happen will be held in the new year. The helicopter has undergone a complete overhaul with many missing or damaged parts replaced and a new paint job – complete with the appropriate lettering and insignia. The city built a new multi-use pavilion to protect the helicopter from damage and will also be able to use the structure for city events and rent it out for private events. The helicopter, which is still owned by the U.S. Army, was faded and starting to rust when it got the attention of two men who decided to get the restoration project underway. Delta technician Joe Stewart and retired U.S. Army pilot Bill James noticed the helicopter during trips through the area and stopped by to see if they could help out. They ended up arranging for the entire project to be completed at no cost to the county and even arranged for discounts for the city’s new pavilion to house the historic helicopter.  ’Joe and Bill took an interest and it really became a labor of love for them,’ said mayor Fry. ‘They have just done a great job. They researched Vietnam War era paint colors and found the appropriate insignia and decals to go back on it after it was painted. They even have the correct warning stickers so it looks just like it did when it was delivered to the Army.’ The two men got others to help with the project as well, including Todd Thaxton of Atlanta Air Salvage who provided the cranes necessary to remove the helicopter’s rotors and body. He and Delta technician Mike Gentry of Williamson helped pull off the rotors and remove the transmission before loading it on the trailer to be transported it to the DeltaTechOps paint hangar. The helicopter was stored by Todd Thaxton until the pavilion was complete and he and others helped return it home recently. Others who helped with the project include Joe’s wife Debbie Stewart and Delta technicians Tim Powers and Dave Keaton. They patched several areas with missing parts and fixed other places damaged by vandals, saving the city tens of thousands of dollars with the restoration.  ’We knew the Huey needed to be repainted and when we looked at companies that were capable of doing it, they wanted between $25,000 and $30,000 which we just didn’t have,’ said mayor Fry. ‘Everyone has done such a nice job with this project and we just can’t thank them enough.’ GA BBQ Co. fed all of the volunteers as they worked to return the historic helicopter to its home and replace items that were removed during paint and transportation.

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