AMO Retires UH-1H Helicopter in El Paso
EL PASO, Texas - On May 25, 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations’ (AMO) last remaining Bell UH-1H helicopter in operation (Registration Number N7247J) will make its final flight in El Paso, Texas, before being parked, excessed, and auctioned off. AMO’s fleet of seven UH-1H models have been gradually replaced with the Huey II configuration and recently overhauled UH-1N models.
“It has been an honor to have such a resilient and historically symbolic aircraft in our fleet for so many years,” said Randolph D. Alles, Executive Assistant Commissioner for AMO.
AMO acquired N7247J from the U.S. Border Patrol more than 14 years ago — in 2002 — when the Department of Homeland Security was formed. A year prior, the U.S. Border Patrol acquired N7247J from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
N7247J was operated by the 174th Assault Helicopter Company, formed at Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1965. It flew 419 hours in Vietnam starting in February 1971. In March 1971, it was hit twice during Operation Lam Son 719, but was later repaired and put back into service before returning to the United States in July 1971. The 174th UH-1 “Huey” pilots and enlisted crew members, who served long and proud in Vietnam, were referred to as the Dolphins and Sharks.
Clocking in at an impressive 47-years-old, N7247J will be parked with an approximate total of 6,900 flight hours and 2,466 cycles (take offs and landings). It was a crucial platform for law enforcement operations along the Southwest Border, and over the last decade, was directly involved in the seizure of approximately 4,000 pounds of marijuana. It was also deployed to conduct vital missions during Hurricane Katrina.
During its tenure, AMO crews have operated the UH-1H to perform tactical and utility missions, including the insertion of agents into otherwise inaccessible terrain, external “load” operations, fast rope and rappel, search and rescue, air crew rifle operations, and aerial patrols.
Notably in 2012, an Alpine, Texas-based UH-1H aircrew searched for hunters lost in the perilous desert mountains. Using night vision goggles in pitch black conditions, the aircrew located them, landed on a rocky mountain ledge beside a 200-foot drop, and deployed onboard emergency responders to retrieve and transport them to safety.
The maintenance highlight of AMO’s UH-1H history is no doubt the fact that our oldest “Huey” was 51 years old — with more than 18,000 flight hours — when it retired from operations. “This is a true testament to the strength of the aircraft, and also the maintenance and care exercised by AMO agents and personnel during its time in operation,” said Alles.
As for the future, the completely overhauled and modernized UH-1N will be employed for air mobility operations along the border, including in mountainous terrain, enhancing both ground searches and interdiction operations. The twin-engine aircraft allows a crew to operate over large bodies of water during coastal enforcement operations.