Pave Hawk lands at Museum of Aviation

  • Published
  • By Michael Rowland
  • Museum of Aviation

After a couple of passes to survey the landing site, an HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopter made a dusty landing in a parking lot at the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, in front of over 250 excited spectators, May 10, 2019.

Six of those spectators were high school seniors from Northside High School in Warner Robins –  Brandon Clarke, Michael Tinsley, Cameo Billow, Cameron Yancey, Jonathan Sexton, and Savion Gates. As part of a Professional Interest Exploration experience, the students spent the last two semesters working with museum staff on an exhibit about the HH-60G. They conducted research, drafted a storyline, and helped prepare and install artifacts and graphics panels.

The exhibit, “Pave Hawk: That Others May Live,” opened with a ribbon cutting shortly after the helicopter landed.

Including this exhibit, the Museum of Aviation, a U.S. Air Force field museum at Robins, has opened six student-curated exhibits since 2011.

Maj. Philip “Skippy” Veltre, assigned to the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody AFB, Georgia, commanded flight into the Museum of Aviation parking lot.

“We love any opportunity to showcase the Pave Hawk and combat rescue mission,” Veltre said, “especially if we have the opportunity to potentially inspire the next generation of rescue Airmen. It also meant a lot to see the result of the time an effort the students put into the new exhibit. We’re very grateful to have been able to bring in an active HH-60G in order to add that real connect to the incredible mission that our men and women in rescue perform every day.”

Veltre and his crew brought spare flight gear for visitors to try on and also participated in the exhibit ribbon cutting.

Arthur Sullivan, an exhibits specialist at the museum, led the student exhibit project.

“This was a great opportunity for the PIE students,” Sullivan said. “They were able to experience first-hand something they had researched for months. We are incredibly grateful to the 41st Rescue Squadron for helping us bring this unique Air Force story to life for our student curators and museum visitors.”

Much of the coordination for the HH-60G fly-in was accomplished by a former HH-60G pilot, retired Lt. Col. Tim “Vulture” Davis, and Lt. Col. Phillip “Hoss” Kennedy, an active HH-60G pilot serving as the Personnel Recovery Branch Chief with Air Force Reserve Command at Robins.

Davis, who also works at AFRC, came to the museum a couple of times to meet with the student curators and talk about the HH-60G.

“I wanted them to understand that the greatest part of the rescue mission in the Air Force is the people,” he said. “It occurred to me what better way to present the essence of the combination of these great airman with an incredible helicopter than to have one present during the opening of the exhibit?” 

With the help of Kennedy and museum staff, Davis coordinated and received approval to have an HH-60G and crew fly in for the exhibit opening.

As the helicopter landed, the sound and downwash took Davis back his flying days to what he described as being “truly a blessing of flying with the greatest men and women in the Air Force and doing the greatest mission.”

Many who came to see the Pave Hawk land work at Robins. Among the first to climb into the helicopter was Josh Horton, a Financial Management Specialist with the 78th Comptroller Squadron at Robins.

“Having the HH-60G land at the Museum was an example of community involvement that allowed Middle Georgia residents to stick their chests out,” Horton said. “It’s another reason we love to call this place home.”

For some who watched the landing and climbed into the helicopter, it was more than just an exhilarating experience. The Pave Hawk fly-in helped them connect to a system they support every day at work.

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center personnel at Robins play an important role in Pave Hawk operations worldwide.

Michael Beasley, AFLCMC Rotary Wing Branch chief at Robins, said, “The HH-60G fly-in provided a unique opportunity to see the weapon system we support first hand and allowed us the ability to talk with the crews who fly the aircraft.”

Beasley explained that while they have many retired military personnel who previously supported the HH-60G helicopter in the field many of its members are career civil service and haven’t had the opportunity to see the aircraft up close. Having the aircraft in flight and on the ground here locally provided aircraft ‘walk-around’ teaching opportunities.”

 “An added bonus, some of our personnel were able to bring spouses to the event and show them the aircraft and warfighters we support,” he added.

The HH-60G was also a treat for over 160 students and their teachers from two elementary schools who came to the museum on a field trip. They were able to get up close to the helicopter and watch the takeoff.

By the time the HH-60G headed south toward Moody, over 425 people had experienced their U.S. Air Force in a positive and unforgettable way.

Candi James, the Museum of Aviation Education Center’s History Program and Tour Coordinator, said “I really think the fly in was better than I could imagine. Overall it was one of the best days ever at the museum, for us that work here, for all students and visitors, as well.”