In 1992, the United States Army invited helicopter manufacturers to submit their bids for a basic training helicopter to replace the ageing UH-1H “Huey” Iroquois helicopters in use with the Army Aviation Center at the Fort Rucker (AL) complex. Following the selection process, the Bell 206B-3 was selected as the winner. The United States Army allocated designation TH-67A to this helicopter, and nick-name Creek.
The first example was handed over on 15 October 1993 (N67001). In total, no fewer then 213 of these Bell helicopters would be purchased by the American military. Even though owned by the military, the helicopters were operated under civil aviation regulations and maintained their civil registration numbers with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The final example was handed over on 13 July 2007 (N1037).
At Fort Rucker (AL), the TH-67A fleet was used for elementary and basic combat helicopter pilot training. In April 2014, it was decided that the Creek helicopters would be replaced by the UH-72A Lakota in these roles. To speed up deliveries, a large number of Lakota helicopters already in use by the US Army were modified for the training role and delivered to Fort Rucker (AL). In additional orders for new helicopters were also placed with Airbus North America. Initially, the TH-67A remained in use, side by side with its replacer. But the fleet was substantially reduced in 2019, when sixty Creeks were transferred to the Colombian military.
By the end of 2020, the General Services Administration (GSA) started to offer batches of Creek helicopters for sale to the highest bidder. Between November 2020 and mid-February 2021, fifty-two Creeks have been offered for sale. This was a clear sign that it would not be for long before the Creek was to be retired completely.
The day on which this eventually took place was 17 February 2021. A ceremony in honour of this event took place at Cairns AAF, Fort Rucker (AL). During this ceremony a six-helicopter flight overflew the airfield, led by a TH-67A. This lead helicopter was followed by an AH-64 Apache, two UH-60 Blackhawks, a CH-47F Chinook and another TH-67A Creek. Symbolically, both Creeks (N67001/01C and N67777/77B) landed while the other helicopters continued their flypast. The fire brigade provided an honorary water-salute for both Creeks. The US Army placed a video of the ceremony on their Social Media site.
Photos: Bell Helicopters and Airbus Helicopters via helis.com / Video: USAACE and Fort Rucker (@ftrucker)