Vietnam Relic Returns to the Skies

The Huey helicopter was the U.S. military's workhorse during the Vietnam War. With 7,000 deployed, 2,500 were lost, and more than 2,000 Huey pilots were killed.

In movies and on television, the Huey became the quintessential image of the war.

The crews developed a special bond with their choppers, and thanks to a helicopter enthusiast in England, one Huey crew was able to reunite recently with the chopper that served their unit in Vietnam — the 129th Helicopter Assault Company.

Former pilot Ron Paye was too emotional to speak when he first heard the sound of his old machine coming over the green hills of Lancashire. He recognized that engine, even after thirty years.

"You can spot a Vietnam vet ... conversation stops," Paye said. "The Huey, greater than anything else, is the symbol of Vietnam. When you hear a Huey, I mean, you're drawn."

The man who brought man and machine together is Phil Connely, who found a rusting old Huey behind the Museum of Flight in Olympia, Wash., where it was being used for spare parts.

"The helicopter that everybody wants to fly and own is a Huey. I mean, its always number one on everyone's list," Connely said. "I went out to the back and this thing was just a wreck. There was no tail and the engine was out, all the gauges were missing."

Connely traced the machine's history, and when the Huey was ready to fly, he started contacting the veterans of the 129th.

Paye made the journey across the Atlantic to fly his old chopper one more time. He was joined by his former door gunner Fred Alvis, and by Mark Jackson, whose brother died in a chopper crash in Vietnam.

The names of the 35 men of the 129th who died in Vietnam are painted today on the Huey's side.

The BBC and ABC News' Nick Watt contributed to this report.

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