McDonnell Douglas OH-6A Helicopter (Aero 38)
By Donald J. Porter
Publisher: TAB Books 1990 85 Pages
DJVU 11 MB
The 0H-6A helicopter, developed in the early 1960s, set the stage for a smorgasboard of armed helicopters the U.S. Army would procure during the decades to follow. The origin of the lightweight observation helicopter dates to the Korean War. Finding wide application as airborne ambulances, small H-13 and H-23 piston-powered machines were later used to augment fixed-wing spotter and observation aircraft operations.
By the late 1950s, the Army sought a turbine-powered replacement for its aging observation helicopter fleet. It needed a "Jeep of the air"—a machine needing little maintenance, and having higher performance than the machines it was to replace.
Now having passed its 30th year in the air, the 0H-6A and its modern-day variants continue to set high standards of performance. Spawned by the original OH-6A, the evolutionary chain of follow-on helicopters includes the present-day McDonnell Douglas MD 500E and MD 530MG.
On a personal level, for a few of my early years in the aviation industry, I served as a field service technical representative for the former Aircraft Division of the Hughes Tool Company, now McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company. Assigned to advise the U.S. Army on its OH-6A technical support operations in Vietnam almost 20 years ago, I still vividly remember the merits of this high-performance machine. During its heyday as a wartime Army aircraft, the OH-6A's performance and crashworthi-ness forever established the type as legendary in the annals of U.S. Army aviation history.
This, then, is the seldom-told story of a remarkable machine that contributed much to the Army's Vietnam helicopter war effort. As someone who lived with the OH-6A during its design phase and then deployment in Vietnam, it is my pleasure to unravel the OH-6A's legendary—and sometimes controversial—history.