138th Aviation Company Memorial News

The RU-21A Ute on board Les Chapman Trucking's semi-trailer for the long journey from Bridgewater, Virginia to Orlando, Florida. (photo via Andrew Rodriguez)
The RU-21A Ute on board Les Chapman Trucking's semi-trailer for the long journey from Bridgewater, Virginia to Orlando, Florida. (photo via Andrew Rodriguez)
The RU-21A Ute on board Les Chapman Trucking’s semi-trailer for the long journey from Bridgewater, Virginia to Orlando, Florida. (photo via Andrew Rodriguez)

For the past year or so, WarbirdsNews has been covering progress with the 138th Aviation Company Memorial’s efforts to place a restored Beech RU-21A Ute on display at Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida as a testament to the brave crews from the US Army’s 138th Aviation Company who served in the Special Electronic Mission Aircraft from the Viet Nam War onwards through Desert Storm.

Loading the Ute. (photo via Andrew Rodriguez)
Loading the Ute. (photo via Andrew Rodriguez)

Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia had donated a spare airframe from their fleet of surplus RU-21s for the memorial, and a number of their employees have worked hard salvaging unserviceable components from other airframes to create a complete aircraft. They achieved this goal in the last few weeks, and a low-loader from Les Champan Trucking arrived in Bridgewater on Monday November 9th to transport the Ute down to her new home in Florida. Unfortunately, during the loading process, one of the buckles on a lifting strap failed, causing the rear fuselage to strike the ground which resulted in significant damage to the skin and some internal structure as well. While it is a setback, the 138th Aviation Company Memorial team is incredibly resilient, and has taken the news in their stride. They expect to have support from experienced restoration personnel in carrying out the repairs and setting up the aircraft for its eventual display. Dynamic Aviation will be sending a replacement tail section to replace the damaged structure.

The Ute's damaged rear fuselage following the lifting strap failure. (photo via Andrew Rodriguez)
The Ute’s damaged rear fuselage following the lifting strap failure. (photo via Andrew Rodriguez)

The Ute arrived without further incident in Orlando, appropriately enough on Veterans Day. It is still scheduled to feature in the City of Orlando Veterans Day Parade this coming Saturday (click HERE for details). Former members of the 138th Aviation Company will be participating in the parade, which this year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Viet Nam War. After the parade’s conclusion, the truck will take the Ute to Orlando Executive Airport for unloading. Restoration and final preparation of the Ute for display will take place at this airport due to the less restrictive ramp access (which is understandably tighter at Orlando International, where the memorial will be situated).

The 138th Aviation Company Memorial's RU-21A Ute arrives in Orlando. (photo via Andrew Rodriquez)
The 138th Aviation Company Memorial’s RU-21A Ute arrives in Orlando. (photo via Andrew Rodriguez)

In addition to the repairs now required for the RU-21, the 138th Aviation Company Memorial team still needs to raise funds to complete the memorial and will be starting a Kickstarter Campaign in the coming weeks. We will be sure to let you know when that happens, as this is an important project celebrating the sacrifices of men and women in a dangerous role who rarely make the headlines due to the clandestine nature of their work.

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