MARIANNA, Fla.— Sometimes, the sky isn’t the limit.
On Tuesday, May 15, Marianna Municipal Airport launched two flights filled with media representatives— myself included.
Donned with a light jacket and a camera, I and seven other media personnel rose to the sky with a Bell UH-1 Iroquois, also known as a “Huey,” as our chariot.
After signing a waiver and attending a short safety briefing, we were loaded onto the chopper. As the blades started to whirr, the iconic wop-wop-wop of the Huey filled our ears.
The pilot, John “Doc” Holladay, serves at the President of the Friends of Army Aviation Ozark, or FAAO. He is also a Vietnam veteran and was more familiar with the “legend” Warbird. Holladay flew his first Huey in 1963.
“This bird has brought me through hell and brought me back,” he said.
After the flight, Holladay commented on the loud, distinctive cry of the Huey.
“Once you hear that sound, you know it’s a Huey,” he said. “There’s no other sound like it.”
Listening to the Huey sing its tune was only one of the benefits of the ride.
During the flight, the wind whipped around me as we soared above the streets of Marianna. I recognized several landmarks down below, such as the Oaks Station Shopping Center and the picturesque Chipola River.
Sitting in the seat as the chopper dipped to the left and right and forward felt somewhat reminiscent of a thrill ride at a theme park.
A thrill ride at a theme park wouldn’t be packed with quite as much history, however.
Holladay talked about the Huey’s role in Vietnam.
“It was really the only connection to the outside world,” he said. “Anything that came in was brought by the Huey. It brought their food, brought their bullets, brought their letters from home. It brought everything that those soldiers needed to keep them motivated.”
The flights were provided to help promote the 8th Annual Armed Forces Day taking place May 18-19. The Marianna Municipal Airport will be hosting a Fly-In, where the public can come and participate in numerous activities.
At the event, 24 free helicopter rides will be provided. There will also be World War II Warbirds and civilian aircraft on display.
The event begins on Friday night with a FAA Safety Seminar and Dinner at 6:00 p.m. Overnight camping is available.
On Saturday, the gates will open to the public at 8:00 a.m. There will be continuous activities running until 3:00 p.m., including a Red Dragon aerial demonstration, a high altitude parachute jump, food, arts and crafts, and free Young Eagle rides.
For additional questions about the event, you can contact Charlotte Brunner at (850) 718-1022.