By JEFFREY POWELL
It has been almost 10 years since the Air Force Armament Museum (AFAM) has added an aircraft to its already impressive inventory. On Friday Sept. 5, an MH-52J Pave Low helicopter was received by the facility in spectacular fashion. After a fly-over the “Super Jolly Green Giant” 73-1652 landed near the museum for the very last time. Many local dignitaries and military members, both active duty and retired, were on hand for the ceremony.
“This is the first time an aircraft has been flown into the museum,” said AFAM Curator George Jones. “So needless to say this is a very exciting time for me, Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt and the local community.”
The MH-53 Pave Low is a variant of the United States Air Force’s Sikorsky HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant and the Navy’s CH-53 Sea Stallion. The MH-53 is used for long-range combat search and rescue and was developed to replace the HH-3 Jolly Green Giant. The HH-53′s were later upgraded as MH-53 Pave Low series.
The specific aircraft flown into Friday’s ceremony has a long and storied history in the area. The helicopter was assigned for four years to the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Eglin and in 1978 was part of the recovery effort sent to Jonestown, Guyana to recover the over 900 American bodies left as a result of the Jim Jones debacle. For the next 28 years the aircraft was assigned to Hurlburt Field’s 1st Special Operations Wing and 16th Special Operations Wing.
The ceremony marked one of the last local flights of the Vietnam War-era helicopter. The entire fleet of MH-53 Pave Lows will be officially retired on Sept. 30. There mission will be taken up by the V-22 Osprey.
“This marks the first time in 28 years that there will be no Pave Lows at Hurlburt,” said Maj. Derrick D. Stamos. “Today is special to me because I did a lot of the ground work to make this addition to the museum possible. This is a special day for everyone who flew abord these aircraft.”