Historic flight to land in Rio Rancho
By Dave Warren, Managing editor
It's a symbol for a generation of soldiers. It has been seen in
hundreds of movies from The Deer Hunter to Apocalypse Now. On
the battlefields of Southeast Asia it pulled American wounded and dead
from the jungles. And it's heading to Rio Rancho early next month.
A Texas filmmaker, Patrick Fries, has decided to use this icon of
the Vietnam era as the focal point of a documentary. The Huey (UH-1
Iroquois) helicopter will be the star of the now-filming "Beneath
the Shadow of the Blade, and according to Fries, Rio Rancho has been
selected as one of a handful of cities to be featured in the
documentary as the Huey lands at the Rio Rancho Sports Complex on Nov.
The documentary will illustrate the flight of a Huey across much of
the nation, collecting stories from those who flew the bird and/or
served under the shadow of its blade. Lifting off from Ft. Rucker,
Ga., on Oct. 2, the flight has already received national attention and
numerous veterans have shared their stories with the pilots and the
film crew. The flight will cover the states of New York, Pennsylvania,
Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana,
Texas, and New Mexico, stopping in Rio Rancho and at the Vietnam
Memorial in Angel Fire.
One of the local coordinators, Anthony Anastasi, explained the
importance of the Huey's arrival here. "This is a pretty big
thing for Rio Rancho to be selected as one of the places for the
helicopter to land," he said. "We are working on a lot of
plans for the event and we may even have Blackhawks escort the
helicopter into the (sports) complex."
With only a handful of Hueys remaining airworthy, Fries said he
felt the time had come to share the meaning of this Vietnam workhorse
with a generation that knew nothing of the American sacrifice from the
later 1950s through 1975. "On Oct. 2, 2002, she lifted off on one
more mission, ready to join with the men and sisters it once carried.
This time, in peace," he said.
For the film, Fries has chosen tail number 65-10091. Manufactured
in 1965 and purchased by the Army the following year, this Huey saw
action in Lai Khe as a member of the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company.
During service it was hit three times by enemy fire. Twice itwas hit
by small arms fire but completed the mission.
The most severe damage occurred on Jan. 7, 1967 during an assault
mission. Taking small arms fire near a hot landing zone, the Huey
crashed after bullets ripped through the cockpit and damaged the
hydraulic system. The helicopter was later recovered from the
battlefield and sent for repairs.
While plans are still underway for the Huey's arrival in Rio Rancho
Anastasi said a lot of people have expressed an interest helping.
"We think it will a big event for the city and it's a good chance
to see a part of history. We want everyone to come out and be a part
of this," he said. "There are a lot of plans and there are
people helping already get a lot of the things in place."
To follow the flight, and learn more about the filming of the
documentary, readers can access the film's Web site at www.intheshadowoftheblade.com.