Loach on display at the July 10th, 1996 Vietnam Helicopter Crewmembers Association annual meeting in Tucson, Arizona.
Steve Coffey guards the display at an airshow, circa 1996.
Steve Coffey with daughter Melissa at Arizona airshow, circa 1996.
Head-on view of completed Loach. The landing gear was installed in a rigid position to ease loading onto special built trailer. Normally, a fully squatted bird would be 9 inches from ground and very difficult to handle!
View showing the “A” tail configuration that pilots preferred over the later “T” and “H” tails for high speed stability. The “T” was added to the commercial “D” model 500 for marketing purposes to compete with the Bell Ranger.
View of M60 Light Machine Gun and Gunner. The M60 was the last replica made in this country, cost $800, and was made of actual M60 gun parts. The gunner mannequin was acquired from a used office furniture joint in Phoenix for $800 and had to be radically modified to pose as a gunner. The outfitting of the gunner, less gun, cost approx. $1,000!
View of pilot. The tourniquet was a recommendation from a former pilot to prepare for eventual arm wound during a mission. The helmet and flight suit for the pilot came from CW4 Jim Schooner, who flew Loaches in Vietnam and for the Silver Eagles. Jim initially identified our Loach as a former Silver Eagles bird! This mannequin also came from a used office furniture store in Phoenix and cost $650. Museums across the country are hoarding life-like mannequins, thus driving the price up. Yes, the pilot’s name is “Woody”.
There is not another helicopter known, in any museum, military, or in civilian ownership, that has the documented history as Charlie Chopper. Although not flying anymore, this aircraft has been valued in excess of $1,000,000, mostly due to the documentation performed by Baron.
Rear compartment showing M16, grenades, static line, and first aid kit.
View of rotor head. This assembly was found under ceiling insulation on top of the office spaces within Bldg. 15 at Culver City, the same building as the Spruce Goose project of the 1940’s. It’s believed that this rotor head was a very early assembly that was used by engineering and was never installed on a Loach! Very historical!
View of empennage stabilizers. The canted cost $14,000, the upper vertical $9,000, and the lower stab/skid $5,000! The “N” number is for FAA purposes in designating the Loach as a “real aircraft” for airshow purposes. (it’s a “judging thing”)
View of completed instrument pedestal. All gauges, radios, switches, were overhauled and detailed. All equipment is vintage for aircraft. The value of completed pedestal is in excess of $50,000!
Baron feels very strongly that this aircraft has a “soul” and it has stories to tell to the survivors and public regarding it’s extremely rich history. Keep in mind that people were seriously injured, and at least one mortally wounded in Charlie Chopper, not to mention the parts that came from a double-fatality crash in Mesa, Arizona. Yes, it’s a bit spooky, but true.
View of grenades. The “pineapple”, “lemon”, and “orange” were fragmentation grenades that weren’t normally used on missions to inherent dangers during combat. Note small details such as extra pistol and soft pack of Camel “shorts”.
Interesting view of pilot and “auxiliary” armor. Although not shown in this picture, we added armored seats to this Loach. It was common for aircrew to “locate” extra flak jackets to place under their legs and around their torsos. Most missions had a 50% mortality rate! These guys were sitting ducks!
View showing the LAWS rocket launcher. This is another weapon that wasn’t actually fired from the helicopter! Picture also shows extra 1,500 round ammo can containing 7.62mm rounds for the Mini-Gun.
Fragmentation grenades, along with a “green” smoke grenade for marking enemy targets for attach aircraft to strike.
View of M134 Machine Gun “Mini-Gun. This anti-personnel weapon fired at 2,200spm or 4,000spm of 7.62mm (.308) rounds. The barrels of this gun came from the U.S. Army, the motor drive from MDHC Ordinance, the HGS-5 System from a government agency, and the breech assembly and intake and exhaust tubes machined by Baron. The entire assembly can be removed with quick-release pins in less than one minute!
Rear view of Mini-Gun. Scope is used for bore sighting the gun to the pilot’s sighting unit, then removed prior to flight. A common joke about the bore sighting unit was that a Marine would be asked to hang out and aim the gun during flight!
Business end of Mini-Gun.
M60 Light Machine Gun that fired 7.62mm (.308) rounds at a rate of 550spm. This was used by a gunner for anti-personnel purposes and was quite effective in protecting the crew and helicopter, although the primary mission the Loach was to locate targets for the “Pink Teams”.
CAR15 Assault Rifle that used 5.56mm (.223) rounds at a rate of 700spm. Used primary for survival purposes. Folding stock and short barrel enable gun to be easily stowed.
Allison C18 turbine engine that produced 317hp. All parts have been restored to like-new condition before installation.
The Re-Christening of 68-17357, circa October, 1993 by Ann Hobbs.