The US Army held a final flight ceremony at Cairns Army Airfield on February 17 for a helicopter that an estimated 90% of the service’s aviators learned to fly in.
The helicopter is the TH-67 Creek, which the service is retiring after nearly thirty years of service.
Two TH-67s, escorted by an AH-64 Apache, two UH-60 Black Hawks and a CH-47 Chinook, first flew to Howze Field, then on to Cairns for a hose down courtesy of the airfield fire department and a short speech from Lt. Col. Keith Hill, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment commander.
“If you’re an army aviator who began your aviation career between 1993 and 2020, the odds are pretty good that the TH-67 Creek helicopter was the foundational tool on which you built your aviation tradecraft,” Hill said. “The TH-67 has spent three decades preparing our aviators to eventually transition to the UH-1 Huey, the AH-1 Cobra, the OH-58 Kiowa and Kiowa Warrior, the UH-60 Black Hawk, the AH-64 Apache the CH-47 Chinook and even the C-12.”
The TH-67 also served as the primary trainer not just for US military students, but also for allied partner students from Afghanistan, Brunei, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Arab Emirates, the commander added.
The TH-67 arrived at Fort Rucker in 1993 to begin its service as the primary trainer for army aviators – eventually earning its title as the longest-serving primary flight trainer in the Department of Defense. The fleet grew to 181 aircraft and over the decades flew more than 1,915,000 hours and trained more than 25,000 students in the initial entry rotor wing program, he said.
The retiring of the TH-67 was probably a “pretty sad moment for a lot of aviators,” said Kenneth Tilley, USAACE Army Aviation Branch historian who attended the ceremony.
“It’s sad to see any helicopter leave the inventory, but it’s especially sad when it is one you’ve flown,” Tilley said. “You rarely hear any pilot speak negatively about this airframe – they really like it a lot. That makes it a little bittersweet to see it leave the inventory.”
The TH-67s, which have served as the Army’s primary flight trainer since 1993, will now move on to serve with other agencies, said Hill, adding that the UH-72 Lakota, which began being used at Fort Rucker to train pilots in 2016, will now fully take over duties as the trainer for Army Aviation.
As with many soldiers, while the TH-67s are retired from the army, they will find employment elsewhere, throughout the world, Tilley said.
“I don’t know specifically where they will go, but these helicopters are all over the world with sheriff’s departments, police departments, forestry, other government agencies and also with agencies in other countries,” he added. “They will be flying for a long time all over the world for years and years to come.”