Joe Wyatt
Published October 27, 2016

A group of students and faculty from Amarillo College, having tirelessly contributed to the restoration of a Vietnam War-era helicopter, will be front and center on Saturday when Randall County officials assemble to formally dedicate the Huey 68-16179.

Students on Huey 360w.JPGThe dedication ceremony is at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Happy State Bank-Randall County Event Center, 1111 E. Loop 335 South.

Terry Smith, coordinator of AC’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program, and instructor Jim Faustina, were among the first to volunteer to help restore the aircraft. Three of their students swiftly followed suit.

“When I asked our students if they wanted to volunteer to help out on this project, some hands shot straight up,” Smith said. “We replaced some windows and polished out some glass on the others. It was a lot of work and I am proud to say that our students put in quite a few hours of their own time.”

Eddie Casias, instructor in AC’s Automotive Collision Technology Program, got an even greater response from his students. Eighteen of them pitched in to help paint the armor-plated pilot and co-pilot seats that Smith and Faustina had completely refurbished. The students also painted the new window frames.

“They were all excited about this project because they took the meaning of it to heart,” Casias said. “They all wanted to be a part of this important piece of history, and they did good work.”

Many local entities contributed to the heartfelt overhaul: Leading Edge Aviation, for example, stripped the original paint, and Bell Helicopter applied a fresh coat.

The beautifully restored helicopter, acquired by the County almost a year ago from the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., soon will be placed on permanent display at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial.

Figuratively, it will have AC fingerprints all over it – for posterity.

“This was an awesome opportunity to participate in a part of history and I jumped at the chance right away,” Brandon Barrick, an AC aviation technology major, said. “This is one of those truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I’m grateful to have had.”