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Land of Liberty

The Story of How to Get a Helicopter on a Limited Budget

By Terry Robinson


With a lot of desire and limited funds, we responded to a Chopper shopper ad for some H19s. The asking price was $50k. To make a long story (a bit) shorter, Mrs. R.L. Jones had her late husbands Hl9 "Liberty" and two other hulks for sale in Ft Pierce Florida. Liberty was painted in Red White and Blue and Stars and Stripes. Although Mrs. Jones had many other offers, she couldn't let Liberty be sold for parts. We assured her that Liberty would be given a good home and restored and flying to airshows again. With the tax incentives we could offer and a lot of pleading, we were able to obtain Liberty, another Hl9 hulk (restorable) and two 48ft trailers full of parts, tools, engines, etc.

My wife, Billie and I drove Craig's truck (ex-military/no air-conditioning) to Florida. Our vacation this year consisted of 3000 miles of diesel fumes, 110-degree weather and lots of bees... ...And we were heading for Hurricane Floyd as it headed west. We made Florida and thankfully missed Floyd. With the help of Vertical Aviation Technologies in Orlando (they restore S55's with turbines), we obtained a trailer for towing the H19s. We spent some time and money restoring the trailer (probably wasn't used for 30 years).

Mark Diciero and Bruce Rodgers flew to Orlando, we all spent the day at the recovery site in Ft. Pierce before Billie and I flew home. Mark and Bruce spent the next week, usually till 3am (it was a lot cooler), Working in the swamps getting things packed up. They said they didn't have a problem staying awake, the alligators helped them with that. They were also warned of the black widows, brown recluse spiders and pigmy rattlesnakes. That week they got the two trailers, which were not roadworthy to the railhead (I understand some back roads were used!) they got Liberty on the trailer and headed to Orlando.

Craig made it to Florida and began the trip back with Liberty and made it as far as Louisiana before a little corrosion in the tail boom took its toll. With the help of Home Depot and a Wench, Craig made it to Shreveport.

Mark was again on a plane, now along with Ed who meet Max Hall. Max has an H21C and lives in Arkansas. Max has been a supporter of Classic Rotors for some time and just happened to be on his way back from Dallas with a new flatbed utility trailer. The three worked all night in the parking lot of the Pelican Inn to remove the tail boom, blades and old spraying equipment. (We now understand the spraying tank probably wouldn't have made it past the California inspection station). Mark said they were really quiet while working all night at the motel, and the upstairs balcony was just the right height for working on the tail boom. For some reason, I think classic rotors is probably persona-non-grata the Blue top.

Two days later, Ed and Mark made it home with Liberty, minus the tail boom. The first thing Liberty did was go to the local car wash.

Bruce drove the truck back to Florida in early December to retrieve the second H19, a new tail boom, and many other parts, thanks to VAT and especially Lynn Franks. Mark made his fourth trip east to help Bruce drive back and they made it as far as "the thing" (100 miles east of Tucson) before truck problems set in. They had to leave the Hl9 at Big Dave's Towing" for a few days while the truck was repaired.

Yes the trailers made it too. ...Remember the part about not being roadworthy. Well, one of them wasn't rail worthy either. The back doors fell off one of them in New Orleans. They're now both back in Ramona, but there was some delay while insuring the weigh station in Temecula was closed. Oh, and the week one spent at the March AFB Museum waiting for a tire.

A lot of people, including Joe, Howard. Joel and all those mentioned above have been busy every weekend working on Liberty. We should have Liberty flying in time for the Miramar Airshow.

I now know what it takes to obtain old Helicopters on limited funds.

Terry Robinson


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