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(1) Bell TH-57B Sea Ranger.  Photo: U.S. Navy by Alan Warner (1) Bell TH-57B Sea Ranger. Photo: U.S. Navy by Alan Warner
(2) Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger.  Photo: U.S. Navy by Gary Nichols (2) Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger. Photo: U.S. Navy by Gary Nichols
HT-8 (HTU-1, HTG-1) Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT

Naval helicopter training can trace its history back to 16 October 1943, when the Navy received it first true helicopter - a Sikorsky HNS-1 (YR-4B). (As a side note: The Navy did order a Pitcairn XOP-1 autogiro in January 1931, however the autogiro experiment did not last too long.) On 1 January 1944, the Chief of Naval Operation ordered the establishment of a dedicated helicopter training program. The fledgling helicopter unit, staffed by the U.S. Coast Guard (which during World War Two was part of the Navy), was based aboard Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York.

At the end of World War Two the Coast Guard reverted back to the Treasury Department, and as such helicopter training was transferred to Experimental Squadron THREE (VX-3), based at NAS New York. VX-3 was tasked not only with the development of the helicopter, but also with the training of helicopter pilots. On 1 April 1948, VX-3 was disestablished and the personnel of the squadron divided into two dedicated helicopter squadrons - Helicopter Utility Squadrons ONE and TWO (HU-1 and HU-2). It was HU-2, based at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey, that was given the responsibility of training Navy (plus Marine and Coast Guard) aviators.

HU-2 was a multi-faceted operation, which included not only training, but helicopter development, search and rescue, as well as other missions that took advantage of the helicopter's unique capabilities. A more distinct helicopter training program was formulated when the training function of HU-2 was split off to form Helicopter Training Unit ONE (HTU-1), established on 3 December 1950, aboard ALF Ellyson Field. The unit was re-designated as Helicopter Training Group ONE (HGU-1) in March 1957. Finally, it was re-designated on 1 July 1960, as Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT (HT-8).

On 1 March 1972, half of HT-8 was spilt off to form the nucleus of the new Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHTEEN (HT-18), and both squadrons were soon moved to nearby NAS Whiting Field. At this time, HT-8 was assigned basic helicopter training, while HT-18 conducted advanced helicopter training.

On 25 May 2007, HT-8 detached one third of its squadron, and along with one third of HT-18, formed a new helicopter training squadron - Helicopter Training Squadron TWENTY-EIGHT (HT-28). Al three HTs are based aboard NAS Whiting Field.

Photo Captions:
(1) A Bell TH-57B Sea Ranger helicopter taxis down the flight line at Naval Air Station Whiting Field - 16 December 2008.

(2) Pensacola Bay - A Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger from Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT (HT-8), based at NAS Whiting Field, makes a landing aboard the Navy Helicopter Landing Trainer (HLT) IX-514, marking the 100,000th consecutive accident-free landing aboard HLT IX-514 - 25 August 2006.

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