Piasecki HUP-3

          On 11 May 1954, three former U.S. Army Piasecki H-25 helicopters arrived at HMCS Shearwater; however, the RCN changed the designation to HUP-3 to be compatible with nomenclature used by the US Navy for the same helicopter. The HUP-3’s were initially taken on strength by Heavier Than Air Helicopter Squadron 21 (VH 21), but in April 1955; the squadron’s designation was changed to Helicopter Utility Squadron 21 (HU 21) to better reflect its utility role. The HUP-3’s were primarily intended for use aboard the ice breaker HMCS Labrador to provide a heavy lift (900 pound / 408 kg) capability. HUP-3’s were embarked on HMCS Labrador during arctic cruises from 1955 to 1957 and were used to site radar navigation beacons for oceanographic and hydrographic surveys and participate in marine biology, ice physics and Defence Research Board activities. During the 1957 cruise Labrador’s HUP-3 was used to assist the RCAF to fly equipment into remote DEW line radar sites, which were under construction. When not embarked on the icebreaker the HUP-3’s were used for search and rescue and general naval utility as well as providing support to other government departments. The three HUP-3’s were transferred to VU 33 in Patricia Bay B.C. in the late 1950’s where they performed fleet support roles until the last two aircraft were struck off strength on 18 Jan1964.

The HUP-3 helicopter was absent from Shearwater until 2003 when the current HUP-3 arrived on a flatbed truck from the Museum of Flight in Langley B.C. Unfortunately, this helicopter is not one of the three original RCN HUP-3’s. After the first RCN HUP-3, serial number 51-16621, was retired it was donated to the B.C. Institute of Technology to train aviation technicians. In 1982, the helicopter was donated to the Langley museum which retained possession until 2000 when it was traded to the Classic Rotors Rotorcraft Museum near San Diego, California. The San Diego museum wanted the Langley helicopter because it was the only known HUP-3 capable of being restored to air worthy condition.  In return, the Langley museum received a former U.S. Army HUP-3 from San Diego museum that was in weathered condition but easily restorable as a static helicopter exhibit. 

In 2002, the Shearwater Aviation Museum negotiated a trade with the Langley museum in which the HUP-3 would be traded for Shearwater’s CF-101B Voodoo. After arriving at Shearwater on 26 February 2003, the HUP-3 languished in the museum until 2006 when a group of volunteers started to restore the HUP to replicate the RCN’s first HUP-3, serial number 51-16621. After arrival at VH 21 in 1954, HUP-3 51-16621, was assigned side number “945”, however, on 1 June 1955, the side number was changed to 245 which was retained until its transfer to VU 33. Shortly after arrival at VU 33, 51-16621 was assigned side number 405, followed by 921 to conform to the squadron’s numbering schemes. During the latter part of 1958, the policy of using the last three digits of the serial number came into being and the side number 621 was assigned until the HUP-3 was struck off strength on 18 Jan 1964.

The RCN’s one and only icebreaker HMCS Labrador played an important role in opening Canada’s Arctic. During Labrador’s summer excursions to the Arctic in 1955, 1956 and 1957, the concept of helicopter operations was expanded and refined and included a Piasecki HUP-3, one of three acquired specifically for HMCS Labrador. The HUP-3 provided a heavy lift (900 pound / 408 kg) capability and was used to lift heavy radar navigation beacons ashore for oceanographic and hydrographic surveys and to support marine biology and ice physics research and a host of other Defence Research Board activities. These cruises provided a cadre of experienced pilots and technicians who were instrumental in pioneering the development of the “Beartrap” and the operation of large ASW helicopters from small destroyers.

The following lists HMCS Labrador’s helicopter detachments during her Arctic and other cruises.

1954 - 22 July to 22 November, summer Arctic operations, circumnavigate North America.
           Bells HTL-4, 300 & 301
           Pilots - Lt John Laurie, OIC, & Lt "Duke" Muncaster 

1955 - 2 June to 21 November, Arctic summer operations.
           Bells HTL-4, 300 & 302
           Piasecki Hup-3, 247
           Pilots:  LCdr Ted Fallen, OIC, LCdr Roger Fink & Lt John Laurie.

1956 - 28 June to 13 October, Arctic summer operations
          HTL-4, 200 & 201
          Piasecki HUP-3, 245
          Pilots: Lt John MacNeil, OIC & SLt Glyn Fitzgerald.

1957 - 3 January to 11 February, self work period in Jamaica
          Piasecki HUP-3, 247
          Pilot: Lt Bob Murray

1957 - 19 February to 4 March - Gulf of St Lawrence operations.
          Bells HTL-4, 301 & 302
          Piasecki HUP-3, 247
          Pilots: LCdr Hal Welsh, OIC, LCdr Bruce Vibert, Lt Dave Oliphant & Lt John MacNeil.

1957 - 1 March to 26 April - European Cruise (Show to ship)
          Bell HTL-4, 200
          Piasecki HUP-3, 247
          Pilots: Lt Bob Murray, OIC & Lt Larry Zbitnew 

1957 - 20 June to 11 October - summer Arctic operations.
          Bell HTL-4, 202 & Bell HTL-6, 205 both Bells crashed 26 July on top Peter Point, Baffin Island
          Piasecki HUP-3, 247
          Piasecki HUP-3, 246 embarked 6 August to replace both crashed Bells.
          Pilots: LCdr Bruce Vibert, OIC 20 June to 14 August
          Lt Bob Murray, OIC, 14 August to 11 October
          Lt Dave Oliphant, 20 June to 11 October
          Lt Larry Zbitnew, 20 June to 12 September.