AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --
The HH-60G Pave Hawk zipped side-to-side as it performed aerial maneuvers above Croatia. All the while, two crew members fired their mini guns at targets with precision and focus. The helicopter provided top cover for U.S. Army soldiers on the ground below. Although, this helicopter was on its final flight after 30 years of service.
This particular HH-60G Pave Hawk, A6212, has saved and assisted more than 958 lives and has flown 9,362.4 hours - the most hours of any HH-60 in the 56th Rescue Squadron’s (RQS) fleet.
For A6212’s whole lifetime, it has been assigned exclusively to the 56th RQS. In September 2021, the helicopter became the first aircraft to retire out of the 56th with the plan to become a static display.
When A6212 came off the production line, it was assigned to three different training bases. The first was the 1550th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Training Wing at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico from 1990-1991. Following that, the aircraft was stationed at Troy, Alabama and Camp Blandings, Florida from 1991-1992.
A6212 was stationed at Naval Air Station Keflavik from 1992-2006, Royal Air Force Lakenheath from 2006-2018, and Aviano Air Base from 2018 to present.
“A6212 has been flying with the 56th RQS since September of 1992 when the RQS received its first HH-60G model,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Aaron J. Peterson, 56th RQS Helicopter Maintenance Unit production superintendent. “It has also flown in multiple wartime and peacetime contingencies.”
The HH-60 completed its final sortie Sept. 23, 2021, while three crew members conducted .50 caliber and mini gun training. The helicopter flew flawlessly on its final flight and no discrepancies were noted from the pilots upon landing, said Peterson.
“The final sortie was [more than] 5 hours and three crew members were also re-certified on the gun systems,” said Peterson. “The 31st Operations Group commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Kevin Crofton, flew with them and they integrated with the 173rd Army unit from Vicenza, where we provided top cover for live-fire exercises.”
After its final flight, A6212’s last dedicated crew chief, Senior Airman Ryan Seidowsky, 56th RQS HMU HH-60 DCC, marshalled in the helicopter, which concluded the last flight.
“It's been fun being the DCC,” said Seidowsky. “A6212 was the first aircraft I flew on at RAF Lakenheath in early 2018 when they were getting ready to move to Aviano. We flew around England for about four hours and at some point the pilots asked us if we wanted hot chocolate and they just landed at an airport and gave us hot chocolate.”
As a DCC, Seidowsky worked on almost every part of A6212 and has flown more than six times on the aircraft and acclaims to how well it flies.
“Pilots will have things going on in-flight that we can't mimic on the ground so the DCCs go up with them to see what they see,” said Seidowsky. “It gives us a better idea of what to look at or fix.”
Now that A6212 is retired, it is scheduled to be stripped of the required components, then the 31st Maintenance Squadron will complete a full paint job in the spring of 2022. The helicopter will then be mounted in front of the 56th Operations Rescue Squadron, building 7300.
There are five helicopters assigned to the 56th RQS with two retiring by the end of 2021; the 56th RQS will receive more HH-60G models in February 2022 as replacements.
In the future, the 56th RQS is scheduled to receive new models of the helicopter.
“The long term plan is for the 56th RQS to receive the new HH-60W Jolly Green models which is estimated for some time in 2023,” said Peterson.
A6212, one of the 56th RQS’s original helicopters, will serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the Rescue Squadron to the United States and the alliances made within NATO.
“This helicopter is the last of the original fleet since we have done five aircraft transfers or retirements in the past year,” said Peterson. “This marks the end of a chapter for the 56th and its aging fleet, we look forward to proudly mounting A6212 on display where she can rest and showcase the heritage of our squadron.”