Iowa man piloted Vietnam era helicopter over Cy-Hawk game

Veteran's Voices

BOONE, Iowa — Though the Cy-Hawk football game was in Ames, US Army veteran pilots gathered at the Boone airport for a special flight on Saturday. Joe Emerson, of Harpers Ferry, Iowa flew a Huey helicopter in Vietnam in the late 1960s. Now he is back in the air with the Huey, and a group called Friends of Army Aviation.

Emerson was the pilot in command of the helicopter, which joined two Iowa National Guard Black Hawk helicopters in a trio flight over Jack Trice Stadium, at the conclusion of the Star-Spangled Banner before kickoff between the Cyclones and Hawkeyes.

Emerson said it took some rehearsals to get the timing right as the aircraft circled over Gilbert until it was time to head south towards the stadium. The pilots had some help from inside the press box, which told them things were not quite military precision inside the stadium, as a band segment rang long. That meant the pilots had to make a 360 turn to burn a little time, which meant they arrived at the stadium just at the conclusion of the National Anthem.

“The timing was questionable because they had a delay in the game,” said Emerson. “So we adjusted and we got it done.”

The flight also included a number of military veterans and crew members who had been providing Huey rides in Carroll, Ames, and Boone over the past week.

Emerson first flew the Army Huey helicopter in 1968 in Vietnam. He’s now back flying and doing whatever else is needed with the Friends of Army Aviation.

“Something I did when I was 19, I can do when I am 73 plus,” said Emerson. “It’s much like the bicycle, it takes a little bit but she’s right there again.”

One thing Emerson likes is the sound of the blades hitting the air.

“When you heard the Huey coming you knew help was coming, mail was coming, bullets were coming, or medivac was coming,” said Emerson. “I call it the sound of music.”

For over a week the Friends of Army Aviation were at a number of Iowa towns providing rides to veterans and members of the general public. Each ride cost $80, as keeping fuel and parts is expensive to maintain the aircraft in flying condition.

“We’re here to help heal, we enjoy what we do, not just from the flying aspect, but for meeting the veterans and the other folks to come to fly,” said Emerson

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