How It All Began…
For many years, the Instructor Pilots from the USAF Helicopter School at Stead AFB, Nevada talked of having a reunion. In 1984 a group of the pilots started an inquiry with friends throughout the country to see if there was still interest in a reunion. Names of pilots came from old Christmas card lists, old rosters and word of mouth. Response was good and interest was high. Colonel James Carroll, then Vice Commander at Sheppard AFB, offered to host it and with other friends in the area assisting, the first reunion was held on the July 4th weekend in 1985 at Wichita Falls, Texas.
The first reunion was such an overwhelming success with over 200 people attending that it was decided to continue the tradition to promote interest in the helicopter field, preserve the esprit de corps, and to renew social contacts of the past. To this end, a group from Reno, Nevada organized the second reunion, held July 4th weekend in 1987. The future of the group was discussed during the reunion meeting. It was determined that a formal organization was needed to accomplish the future goals due to the large number of interested people.
Eligibility for membership was discussed. Rather than limit it just to School members and only have another of the many unit/squadron gatherings, it was decided to open the membership to any helicopter pilot who served with the U.S. Air Force. The USAF Helicopter Pilot School patch with the eggbeater being flown by a gremlin was adopted as the logo. The San Antonio gang did the groundwork to establish the Association by writing by-laws and holding the first official meeting at the San Antonio, Texas reunion in October 1988. During the General Membership meeting, which is held in conjunction with each reunion, a Board of Directors was elected and the next reunion site was selected. This procedure has been followed since. Eligibility for associate (*now Auxiliary) membership was extended, with dues waived, to the widows of those eligible for regular membership. The IRS non-profit organization status was obtained later when the USAF Museum at Wright Patterson AFB was designated as the recipient of all property of the organization in case of disbandment.
Reunions are held approximately every two years with the 1990 reunion at Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. The May 1992 reunion was held at Dayton, Ohio to coincide with the 50th anniversary of US military helicopter flying and a monument to all helicopter pilots was dedicated at the Air Force Museum. Subsequent reunions were:
- 1994 at Albuquerque, New Mexico
- 1996 at San Diego, California
- 1998 at Orlando, Florida
- 2000 at Phoenix, Arizona
- 2002 at Biloxi, Mississippi
- 2003 at Ogden, Utah
- 2005 at Reno, NV
- 2006 at Orlando, FL
- 2008 in San Antonio, TX
- 2009 at Colorado Springs, CO
- 2011 at Jackson, WY
- 2012 at Branson, MO in October, 2012