US Marine Corps, March 29, 2012 - Lance Cpl. Joshua Young - Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 conducted it’s final flight of their last AH-1W Super Cobra at Marine Corps Air Station 39, Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 23.
The squadron first received an AH-1W in 1987 and has been conducting training and combat operations with it for the last 25 years. They will receive six AH-1Z Super Cobras within the next week to continue training, and complete the conversion from the AH-1W to the AH-1Z.
“Today marks our last flight in the AH-1W,” said Capt. Justin Reinwand, an attack helicopter naval air training and operating procedures standardization officer with HMLA-267. “I am really sad to see the ‘Whiskey’ go. It’s got the coolest sounding rotor blades on Earth, and I’ll miss that, but time goes on.”
The squadron will be among the first units to phase out the AH-1W and completely convert to the AH-1Z. Many of their pilots are currently training for the conversion.
“Starting on Monday, we will become an ‘all-upgrades squadron’ with AH-1Y Venom’s and AH-1Z’s,” said Lt. Col. Matthew T. Mowery, the commanding officer of HMLA-267. “It’s a big deal for us, historically. This squad has flown the ‘Whiskey’ for 25 years.”
They will be the first unit to be fully upgraded with the Yankees and the AH-1Z’s. Some of the Marines had mixed feelings as the aircraft departed for it’s final flight with HMLA-267.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Maj. Brian Ashford, a maintenance officer with HMLA-267. “We watched the ‘Whiskey’ fly away. It’s not the last flight for the ‘Whiskey’, but it’s the last flight for it here. Somebody has to be first and we are embracing it.”
The AH-1W deployed with HMLA-267, Marine Expeditionary Units and notably in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
“When the guys on the ground see a ‘Whiskey’ coming overhead, they know they are going to get some very good support,” said Mowery, who has logged at least 2,900 hours in the aircraft since 1996. “It’s been a success story for 25-plus years and I was just proud to be part of that.”
Marines might miss hearing the sound of the AH-1W in the future, but they will probably be pleased with the sound of the AH-1Z flying overhead, considering the upgrades that enhance it’s ability to provide support.
“The grunts always want skids overhead, they’re always asking for it,” Reinwand said. “As long as there are boots on the ground there are going to be people asking for us.”
The AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopter has a four rotor-blade system. The upgrades allow the aircraft to carry an additional 4,000 pounds, travel faster and conduct combat operations from a safer distance. The helicopter has safety upgrades such as improved crash-worthy seats and all-glass cockpits.
“It’s just like trading in your old 1957 Chevy for something modern,” Mowery said. “The ‘57 Chevy is still going to get you around, but the modern vehicle is going to be a lot more effective.”
The commanding officer of HMLA-267 piloted the unit’s final flight of the AH-1W. The squadron attended the departure, cheered and applauded as the helicopter took flight. Mowery smiled as he handed off the AH-1Z’s logbook to the HMLA-169 commanding officer.
“For me, this is the end of an era,” Mowery said. “It’s probably the last time I’m going to fly a ‘Whiskey’.”