CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan -- In 1966, the CH-53D Sea Stallion began its service in the Marine Corps. Today, the Sea Stallion is still operating in deployed environments and serving the Corps with its heavy lift capabilities.
On March 31, 1971, Sea Stallion with aircraft tail number BUNO 157748, now known as aircraft 51 entered the Marine Corps with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362.
Now, 39 years later, Aircraft 51 reached its 10,000 flight-hour milestone while deployed here with HMH-362, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).
Aircraft 51 is the third aircraft to reach the 10,000 flight-hour mark while serving under HMH-362, the "Ugly Angels." It has served in Japan, Korea and in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
"All the 53 Deltas that have reached 10,000 hours have reached that mark as part of HMH-362," said Sgt. Todd Bauer, a crew chief with the Ugly Angels. "The squadron is really rich in heritage. In Hawaii, we have a heritage room where there are pictures of former [commanding officers], articles, photos and photos of the other two aircraft that have reached 10,000 hours."
The photos that hang in the heritage room are of the aircraft and the crew aboard the plane when it reached the 10,000 flight-hour mark.
"For the crews it’s a big deal because it cements them into [HMH] 362 history," said Bauer, who is from Mandan, N.D.
The Sea Stallion can carry up to 37 troops, 24 litter patients plus four attendants or 8,000 pounds of cargo.
The Delta has a maximum takeoff weight of about 42,000 pounds, compared to the new CH-53E Super Stallion, which can liftoff with about 70,000 pounds due to a third engine. Sea Stallions still carry their own weight even with the greater lift capabilities of the Super Stallions.
"These aircraft are like beasts," said Capt. Robert Buck, a Sea Stallion pilot. "We get misjudged, then come back as the underdog and can always carry more troops and cargo than expected. People are always surprised, given the right conditions, how much we can support the infantry."
The Ugly Angels transport troops and cargo throughout Helmand and Nimroz provinces daily to support coalition forces on the ground.
BUNO 157748 may have reached its 10,000 flight-hour mark, but will continue to make history by supporting operations in Regional Command (Southwest).