Two CBP Air and Marine Operations UH-1N huey aircrews conduct a supply delivery from the temporary FEMA headquarters at Randolph Air Force Base to a FEMA relief center on the west side of Houston on August 29, 2017. (CBP photo)

Air and Marine Operations Conducts Final UH-1 Huey Flight

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO), El Paso Air Branch conducted the final flight of the UH-1N ‘Huey’ helicopter for the agency on July, 29, 2020. The UH-1N is a twin-engine, medium-lift helicopter in operation with AMO since Feb. 10, 2015.

AMOs fleet of five UH-1Ns have been operated mainly along the southern border between the United States and Mexico as an air-mobility asset aiding in search and interdiction operations over rugged terrain. The UH-1N is the latest version of the Huey to be operated by a CBP component, who had previously operated other single engine variants of the UH-1 helicopter.

Since FY12, AMO’s UH-1’s have operated more than 8,000 hours, contributed to seizure of approximately 16,700 lbs of marijuana and 35 vehicles, contributed to the arrest or apprehension of 245,862 individuals, and was involved in the rescue of 152 individuals.

The fleet of N-model Huey’s are all former United States Marine Corps aircraft retired between August 2010 and September 2012 and subsequently upgraded to meet the needs of AMO’s mission set. Upgrades include a new communication suite, glass cockpit displays, new wire-strike kit, high-skid landing gear and tail boom and rotor modifications. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3 engine received electrical and fuel system upgrades and installation of extended exhaust deflectors. Each aircraft received the $1.3 million upgrade to AMO standard by Rotorcraft Support Inc. of Van Nuys, California.

The versatility of the UH-1N aircraft meant its crews were often requested to collaborate with the ongoing enforcement missions along the approximately 800 miles of international border from Sanderson Texas to the Arizona / New Mexico State line. Missions performed included transportation of agents, aerial search for subjects, rescue and retrieval of subjects and narcotics or other contraband.

For some missions, specialized personnel such as Emergency Medical Technicians enhance the life-saving potential for those in need of medical attention. AMO has also utilized the UH-1Ns for natural disaster relief and emergency response, including during Hurricane Harvey which devastated Houston, Texas. Closer to home, El Paso Air Branch deployed an UH-1N to assist the El Paso Police Department during the mass casualty event, August 3, 2019.

“The UH-1 Huey has been a valuable asset, allowing our agents to carry out their law enforcement and humanitarian missions,” said El Paso Air Branch Director, John Stonehouse. “Our aircrews, working in coordination with the U.S. Border Patrol, and other federal, state, and local agencies, have directly contributed to increased mission effectiveness and lives saved. We are looking forward to even greater accomplishments, as we transition our air fleet to the UH-60 Black Hawk.”

The retired UH-1N airframes will be sold on the commercial market. The funds generated will be returned to the AMO operating budget and immediately applied to sustainment of the UH-60 Black Hawk fleet, which replaces the UH-1N along the southern border and is in use across the continental United States and Puerto Rico. The UH-1N was acquired and intended to be a short-term asset to bridge the gap of medium lift helicopter capabilities, as AMO initiated the UH-60 Service Life Extension Plan. With that program underway and the recent approval to standardize the medium lift helicopter fleet to the UH-60, the UH-1N served its purpose in keeping AMO’s capabilities viable as we transitioned.

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