Fort Polk retires one of the army’s oldest helicopters
FORT POLK, La. (KALB) - If you live near the Fort Polk area and heard helicopters flying over your home during lunching time on Thursday evening, you probably heard the OH-58 Kiowa. The helicopter went on its last ride as the military installation decided to retire that particular model. The OH-58 Kiowa started its service in the army during the 1960s.
“The amazing thing is the average age of these aircraft are 50-years-old,” Trey Swofford, a retired pilot said.
"Yeah, this one was built in 1968," Tyler Smith said. "This is our oldest aircraft."
As twin-engine helicopters became more popular, the OH-58 Kiowa began to lose its relevance in missions and became a training aircraft.
"Actually this is what we learned how to fly in flight school," Lt. Col. Connie Lane said. "So, I started flying the OH-58 Charlie back in back in 2000."
The OH-58 Kiowa will be replaced by the UH-72 Lakota model, which is a twin-engine helicopter with four blades on top.
"It's the next generation," Scott Jones, army pilot said. "It's kind of fitting that I did learn how to fly on this helicopter, and this will be one on my last flights in this helicopter [OH-58]."
Many people watched as eight OH-58 Kiowa helicopters took off in the air for one last flight.
"We'll get like ATC controllers who will thank us for our service and [then] they'll come on the radio like, 'I was in the army 30-years ago and did something with that aircraft.'" Jones said. "That for me has been kind the experience, [and] you are not going to get that nostalgia with a new model."
There are only nine OH-58 Kiowas on Fort Polk and the majority of those will be going to law enforcement as they will continue to serve the community.
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