The Bell OH-58 (model 206) was designed in 1960 for the U.S. Army as a Light Observation Helicopter, and first flew in 1962. During its test phase, Bell also developed a civilain derivative, the model 206A Jet Ranger which first flew in 1966 that was similar to the 206 but with some minor improvements. In 1967, the Army showed more interest and Bell won the contract to produce the OH-58A. Deliveries of 2,200 Kiowas began in May 1969.
This same year the Kiowa would see duty in Vietnam. Used as a scout, they were originally designed as a replacement for the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse, but the popularity of it never reached that of the Cayuse. Some Air Cav units deployed the OH-58 and had some success though 28 Kiowas were lost to hostile fire. The OH-58 performed well at low speeds and the tail rotor could be used to “horse around” a turn, rather than fly through it. This gave it super maneuverability. The OH-58 has been used in support of the Army for several years and today they fly the OH-58D. The back seats carry equipment rather than people and have many updated systems. The Kiowa can be seen in action in the deserts of Iraq.
The museum’s OH-58 (70-15258) was delivered to the Army in June 1971 to the 7th Army Training Center in Grafenwohr, Germany. In 1978, it transferred to Headquarters 1st Infantry Div. in Goppingen, Germany. In 1988, it went to B Co. 7/159th Aviation Regiment. In 1990 to D Co. 2-1 Aviation Regiment, Katterbach, Ge. and from Dec 1990-Aug 1991 deployed in support of Desert Storm. In 1992, it went to B Co. 228th A.B. Panama. In 1993, it went to the Pa. National Guard and in 1998 was declared surplus. In 2001, it was purchased by the museum from the Army as a stripped out fuselage without the engine and most of the parts. It was restored in Atlanta, Georgia, and in 2002, flew to California to its new home.
Coast to Coast World Record Helicopter Flight – August 8th, 2006
According to the National Aeronautical Association, the trip to Savannah, Georgia, covered 1810 nautical miles and they averaged 72.37 MPH setting a record for one-way at 28.47 hours. This also set two national records for the round-trip and for the helicopter type. The crew of included Johan Nurmi (a veteran of record flights, he has set 2 world record flights in the Robinson R-22 Helicopter), Pat Rodgers (a former U.S. Army helicopter crewman and seasoned pilot), and William Hendricks (a doctor by trade and a helicopter pilot as well).
The world record flight used the museum’s restored Bell OH-58A Kiowa. Similar to the civilian Bell 206 the military version had some differences. There will be modifications made to the OH-58 to make the aircraft safer, more dependable, have longer range and more pilot comfort. Examples are improved instruments and avionics, a fuel tank range extender, drive shaft cover upgrade, engine adjustments, wire cutters, seat upgrades and an overall new paint job. The flight will be better received with a civilian paint scheme vs a military paint job. The new paint job was accomplished in about 2 weeks, the actual painting taking just 4 days. We prepped the Kiowa in French Valley, then flew it to Show Low, Arizona, where we used the paint facility of long time sponsor Overseas Aircraft Support Inc. The paint was made by PPG and was donated by Temecula Valley Paint. The Kiowa was painted by Shayne Meder and Roxane Johnson with help from Pat Rodgers. In addition, we’d like to thank our individual sponsors – Richard Wall, William Hendricks, Pat Rodgers, and Jack Lanphere.