Marine Corps says goodbye to the Super Cobra

Philip Athey

With its final flight over the New Orleans skyline, the Corps said goodbye to the historic AH-1W Super Cobra after 34 years of service as the Corps’ go-to attack helicopter.

The first Super Cobras were deliver to the Corps on March 27, 1986, and during the next 13 years the Corps built up a fleet of 179 of the Bell manufactured attack helicopters, a press release from Bell said.

Super Cobras racked up 933,614 flight hours since it first hit the fleet, deploying with Marines all around the globe.

“The Marine Corps has operated the Whiskey since the early 90s. Operating them in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, they did the Gulf War, they did eyes over Mogadishu, (Somalia), they operated in MEUs across the world,” Lt. Col Charles Daniel, the executive officer for Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, said in a video from the Marine Corps.

The final Super Cobra to fly in the Marine Corps belonged to the reserve HMLA-773, based out of New Orleans, according to Marine Corps releases on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

The aircraft hit the unit from the Bell factory in 1994 and deployed to Afghanistan with the unit from 2003 to 2005, Maj. Patrick Richardson, the active duty component executive officer for HMLA-773, said in the video.

Richardson has the honor of being the last Marine to pilot the Super Cobra, with Daniel acting as his co-pilot, Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a Marine Corps spokesman told Marine Corps Times on Monday.

“This final flight is very important for us to honor the aircraft, the thousands of guys who have flown it, maintained it before us,” Richardson said.

“It’s an honor to be the last guy to fly one, I never thought I’d be in this position,” he added.

Michael Deslatte, H-1 Bell program manager, said in the Bell press release, “We are tremendously proud of the capabilities the AH-1W has brought to the United States Marines for the past 34 years.”

“The Super Cobra’s tremendous legacy is a testament to the excellence and dedication the men and women at Bell put into these platforms for generations and we look forward to continuing that legacy for years to come.”

The AH-1W has been replaced by the Bell manufactured AH-1Z Viper, which reached initial operational capability status in 2011 and has been slowly replacing the old Super Cobras since.

“The retirement of the Whiskey is a bittersweet moment in time for me,” said Daniel, who flew the aircraft in Afghanistan.

“I had a lot of great memories in this aircraft, it got me back safe every time and done everything I ever asked it to do,” Daniel added.

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