Farewell, Carpet Beater
The West Germans saw how the ubiquitous UH-1 Huey was used in Vietnam in the 1960s and decided it needed some of that. Through a licensing deal with Bell and the blessing of the Nixon administration, Dornier began making copies of the UH-1D (Bell 205) stretched-fuselage single-engine 15-seat troop carrier variant in 1968, completing 352 birds for the Bundeswehr by 1981 in addition to four American-made models delivered as a control group. KHD in Oberursel was licensed to make the aircrafts’ Lycoming T53-L-13B 1400 shp turboshaft engines.
Unofficially termed the Teppichklopfer (carpet beater) in German service, they were well-liked and proved reliable. In all, the Heer (Army) operated 212 of the aircraft while the Luftwaffe picked up 132 for SAR and liaison, and the Bundesgrenzschutz (BSG) border guards got 12 of their own for use by their elite counter-terror group.
By the early 2000s, the aircraft were showing their age and were replaced by new NH90 and H145 (Eurocopter EC145) production until just one squadron was flying them for SAR use in dets out of Niederstetten, Nörvenich, and Holzdorf.
Putting a cap on over 2.3 million hours of service across almost 50 years, the last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99 (“Full Metal Jacket” fans?), received a “Goodbye Huey” sunset livery and flew into Bückeburg airfield (Airfield Achum) in June to finish its 10,000-hour lifespan before heading to the German Helicopter Museum (Hubschraubermuseum) there, arriving on June 22.
However, the swan song on the Teppichklopfer came this last week, halfway around the world from Germany. You see, in 2014, the Philippine Air Force took possession of 21 donated ex-Bundeswehr UH-1Ds. Long-serving and all over 20 years old at transfer, they were to be upgraded to a “Huey II” standard in a $27M program that never really came to play, and the latter deal was criticized over allegations of kickbacks to high-ranking officials.
The German Hueys replaced 25 broken-down Vietnam-era UH-1Hs in PI service whose claim to fame was that half of the fleet was used in the filming of Apocalypse Now— alternating fighting rebels with flying in the famous Valkyrie scene.
Nonetheless, as the PAF had other UH-1 models on hand to include a few of those vintage “Hotel” models from the U.S, and commercial Bell 412s, as well as as the boost of donated spare parts from Japan (where the UH-1J was built under license by Fuji Heavy Industries) it has been able to keep their German birds in the air for the past decade, supporting operations throughout the archipelago to fight the local terrorists and conduct relief operations when earthquakes and typhoons struck the archipelago.
Now, as the PAF is moving to newer rotary aircraft– including Turkish-made Augusta T129 ATAKs, Italian AW109s, and American Sikorsky S-70s, S-76s, and MD 500 Defenders– the age of the Huey is almost over, at least in the PI.