H-43A   Service History 1959-1962


581835 Craig Aug59 CDamonte17 1280

H-43A 58-1835   3615th PTW    Craig AFB, AL   August 1959, photo by  C.Damonte



        This overview is edited from stories and mission reports published in the Kaman Rotor Tips magazines

        and in newspapers, as well as from personal accounts by the men who flew with the H-43A.

        Some of the many documents availabe from the archive of the A.F. Historical Research Agency (AFHRA),

        Maxwell AFB, AL.  were consulted during my visits to the Agency back in 1996 and 2001.

        I am in need of photos for H-43A 58-1825, -1831, -1837, -1838, -1840 and a glossy photo of 58-1824.                                           

Johan D. Ragay, February 2019


Mr. Carlton Damonte  (Lt.Col. USAF  Ret.) wrote :

“She certainly isn't a legend, the H-43A. Most helicopter pilots today probably never heard of her. She didn't even have a name.

Today (ca.1995) , those of us who flew her 35 years ago, still refer to the old bird simply as the "A" model. All were assigned to the Air Training Command to provide crash rescue support.

Within two and a half years her career was over and she was shipped to the boneyard, replaced by her big sister the H-43B Huskie”.


1.0   Introduction  -  H-43A and  Local Base Rescue

The U.S. Air Force H-43A helicopter, selected to fill the local crash-rescue mission, was developed  by Kaman for operations in areas of mud, sand and snow.

The H-43A configuration differs from the HOK-1  , since 1956 the Marines version of this aircraft,  primarily by replacement of the vertical center fin of the HOK-1 and HUK-1 (US Navy) with two dorsal and ventral fins attached to the booms. The elevator span had been extended by 2 feet on the H-43A, and the vertical fins attached to the ends of the elevator have been increased in size. The two center dorsal fins provide a marked improvement in directional stability, compared to the HOK, during power-on and -off approaches, especially during crosswind approaches. Bear-paw landing gear was  added as well.                                   (source : Limited Performance Evaluation of the H-43A, Report AFFTC-TN-59-4, dated March 1959)


Mission role for the H-43A with the USAF included standby air operation during mass airplane landings and take-offs, to locate and pinpoint any emergencies and accidents and bring back disabled crew members. Thousand-pound firefighting and rescue kit, including fire extinguishing agent, axes, bars, metal cutters, etc. can be suspended beneath the helicopter.  (Aviation Week -  February 23, 1959)

After reorganizations and reductions in strength that began shortly after the close of the Korean War, the need for an organized rescue service in the Air Force was again questioned in 1959.

As of  February 1959 and up to 30 September 1961 the 18 H-43A aircraft made part of  the major unit at the station of assignment.

But in 1961 the Air Rescue Service accomplished the necessary planning to assume both the National SAR Plan and the Local Base Rescue Helicopter Program. Later , the LBR function were  transferred from individual commands to the ARS.

As of 01 October 1961 the CONAC  RCC’s , all operating the H-43A, were organized as follows :


EASTERN ARC  ,  Hq. at Robins AFB, GA  :

assigned – up to Sep61


assigned – as/of Oct61

H-43A  from / to

3505th PTW

Greenville AFB, MS


Jun 59   - Oct 60

3550th PTW

Moody AFB, GA


Mar 59  -  Feb 62

3615th PTW

Craig AFB, AL


May 59  - Dec 61



CENTRAL ARC  ,  Hq. at Hensley NAS , Dallas, TX :

assigned – up to Sep61


assigned – as/of Oct61

H-43A  from / to

3510th PTW

Randolph AFB, TX


May 59 -  Jan 63

3555th PTW

Perrin AFB, TX


Mar 59  -  Jul 62

3565th NATW

JamesConnally AFB, TX


Apr 59  -  May 62

3575th PTW

Vance AFB, OK


Aug 59  -  Dec 61

3640th PTW

Laredo AFB, TX


Jan 59  -  Dec 61



WESTERN  ARC  ,  Hq. at Hamilton AFB, CA : 

assigned – up to Sep61


assigned – as/of Oct61

H-43A  from / to

3525th PTW

Williams AFB, AZ


Oct 60   - Jan 62




2.0   From production line to Air Force delivery

 The only batch of  H-43A ordered by the Air Force was for a total of 18 aircraft , serial numbers 58-1823 to 58-1840  (contract AF-36190).

The first H-43A coming from production line at Bloomfield, CT, was 58-1823,  which made it’s maiden flight on 19 September 1958. It stayed with the manufacturer for trials up to September 1959. Vance AFB, OK became it’s first LBR assignment.  


581823 and81841 Bloomfield 25Mar59 KamanPho

First production H-43A  58-1823  and  H-43B  58-1841 at Kaman Bloomfield, CT 25 March 1959 - Kaman Photo 3040-1 , EBay auction 2016


129839 N298B Apr58 EBay2014

N298B  Kaman K-600   Kaman Aircraft Corp. at  Anacostia, Washington, DC  April 1958  (former HOK-1  129839) - this aircraft became AF 58-5524 (see below) , EBay-auction photo 



585524 shipping box Bloomfield 24Jul58

                                      H-43A  58-5524  at Kaman Bloomfield, CT  24 July 1958  with rotorblade shipping box ;  Kaman Photo

One  extra H-43A,  the 19th, with serial number AF 58-5524 was bought by the USAF and bailed to Kaman for evaluation in anticipation of the first production H-43A. Kaman used aircaft 58-5524 for various tests and called it in it’s reports “the demonstrator H-43A”.

This particular aircraft was former HOK-1 BuerNo. 129839. It was struck of charge on 23 Jan 1957 (after an accident at Camp Pendleton, CA on 19 Sep 1956). Transferred to Bloomfield, CT and restored, but it did not return to the Marine Corps. As Kaman Model K-600 the aircraft then flew with FAA Registration number N298B in a grey and red scheme and with Kaman title. First seen in April 1958. It had the newly developed four-fin tail mounted. By June 1958 the aircraft was repainted in sliver finish with USAF title and serial number. This 58-5524 always remained at Bloomfield, CT and was used for many trials, up into early 1963.


Between   28 Nov 1958   and   17 July 1959

all 18 H-43As were accepted by the Air Force at the Bloomfield, CT plant.


The first two H-43As delivered to the Air Force were accepted and ferried to

Laredo AFB, TX (3640th PTW)  by Captain Bert E. Cowden and

Captain Theodore C. Vurbeff .

H-43A 58-1824 accepted on 31 Jan 1959, and 58-1825 accepted on 27 Feb 1959.


A1C Jesse Munoz Jr. was one of the first firemen assigned to the 3640th PTW at Laredo AFB, TX.  

In 2018 Mr. Munoz provided the following details for this moment :


Our story starts with a staff meeting for all Fire Department personnel at Laredo AFB, Texas in late February 1959.   The Fire Chief informed us that our base was forming a new unit called H-43A Local Base Rescue Section from Air Rescue Service and involved training base firemen. They were asking for volunteers, I was a young Airman First Class. The thrill of flying got my immediate attention and I volunteered.  There were eight of us and little did I know to what paths it would take me.

A few days later we were given an orientation flight on a H-19. Then they took us to see the H-43A. It looked awkward and looked much like an ugly eggbeater.  We wondered if it could really fly.  We started training in early March with a Kaman Aircraft Corporation Representative who taught us the capabilities of the H-43A and its FSK. Next, he gave us a briefing on the firefighting operations. We were also provided a booklet of operating instructions about our new “Toy” called the Fire Suppression Kit (FSK) and nicknamed the “Sputnik”.    He showed us how the FSK worked, we completed our training March 31, 1959 and received our certificates from the Kaman Aircraft Corp.

 (Source : Article : “Ring of Fire” , “Fighting Fires with the H-43A” , by MSgt Jesse Munoz, Jr  USAF Retired. Published in “ The RIP Chord” , McChord Field, WA  - Volume 46, number 1 , Jan-Mar 2018)


Certificate FireFighterTraining 31Mar59 Munoz

          collection J. Munoz



H43A First Airborne Firemen Mar59 Munoz

   photo  published in “Que Paso”  newspaper  xx March 1959  -  collection J. Munoz



 3.0      Available mission reports and other unit-related  information 


           3.1    Laredo AFB, TX   

           3.2    Moody AFB, GA

           3.3    Perrin AFB, TX          

           3.4    James Connally AFB, TX   

           3.5    Craig AFB, AL     

           3.6    Randolph AFB, TX

           3.7    Greenville AFB, MS       

           3.8    Vance AFB, OK

           3.9    Williams AFB, AZ

           3.10   Known crewmembers who have been assigned to unknown H-43A units



4.0     FROM  the “A” model to the H-43B  “Huskie” 


H43A toB Switchover 20Aug59 DLarsen 

date :   20 Aug 1959                                    credit :  D. Larson , via. Steve Mock



5.0     Retirement of H-43A aircraft 

Hq USAF had directed that the 17 (one crashed)  H-43A aircraft gained by ARS upon assumption of the LBR program are to be placed in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB as they become excess to command requirements.

The airlift was effected by WESTAF C-124 aircraft returning to home station from IRAN at Hayes Aircraft Corporation, Birmingham, AL. Airlift was requested as a means of preserving the LBR capability at bases concerned by eliminating extended TDY of ferry crews from austerely manned detachments. 

17  H-43A  become excess to command requirements :




del to MASDC


to FAA 15Jan63


Vance AFB





Laredo AFB





Laredo AFB


to EglinAFB for test, destroyed 1Mar63



Moody AFB





Moody AFB





Perrin AFB





Perrin AFB





James Connally AFB







crashed 16 May59 at JamConnally AFB



Craig AFB





Randolph AFB


in storage at Eglin AFB ,later as display aircraft    **



Randolph AFB


to Eglin AFB, 16Jan63 for tests, destroyed 02Feb63



Craig AFB





Williams AFB





James Connally AFB


left  MASDC 23Oct62 ; to N612 in 1963



James Connally AFB





Williams AFB





Vance AFB





 **   The N2851J registration was never applied. After storage at Eglin AFB, FL  HH-43A 58-1833 was transferred to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (on an unknown date). It became part of the US Air Force Orientation Group (AFOG) , which performs ground-displays of aircraft on a mobile basis (source : BARG magazine).

At least as of August 1966, 58-1833 became a permanent display aircraft at the Florence Air & Space Museum grounds, Florence, SC.

After restoration during 1985/86 it became part of the Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB, GA. At first on outside display, as of 1994 on display inside the Museum.

In Oct 2013 aircraft 58-1833 was flown to McChord AFB, WA inside a C-17A. For display in the McChord Air Museum after  restoration (by late 2018 still in storage here).


581833 RobinsMuseum USAFphoto

HH-43A  58-1833   Warner-Robins Museum, GA , unknown date  , USAF photo


581833 McChord 22May2014 CTaylor2

HH-43A  58-1833  in store at McChord Museum, 22 May 2014 - by C.Taylor


6.0      CIVIL   REGISTERED   H-43A 

Thirteen HH-43A were bought by Rosenbalm Aviation, Inc. , Central Point, Medford, OR in February 1966. They were all in non-flyable condition, but by May 1966  N2853J was reworked and flying in it's new role, forest firefighting.

In the table in the previous chapter all FAA registration numbers are given. Only eight aircraft from this group were in the end  restored to flying condition : N2843J, 47J, 48J, 49J, 53J, 54J, 55J and 56J.

All, except N2849J and N2856J, were lost in accidents between 1970-1972.

N2856J survived and finally became owned by the Classic Rotors Museum, Ramona, CA in December 2005. They planned to restore the aircraft to flying condition with a first flight planned for 2009, but that has never happened because of a tragic accident with a HUP-1 helicopter which occurred in Nov 2009.



7.0   Book with detailed histories for all civil operated Kaman HOK, HUK, HH-43A, HH-43B/F and their operators was written by Johan Ragay, published in 2009.


129813 HOK N5166Q Sep70 JVanGrunsven13

Bill Wall flying former HOK 129813 – N5166Q with fertilizer pod, Sep 1970

photo taken by former HH-43B pilot Jerry VanGrunsven


After his Air Force carreer, Mr. Bill Wall again became current on the HH-43A , the HOK as well as the HUK,  then owned by Command Helicopters Inc., Medford, OR.  During the period 1969-1972 he flew many hours in these helicopters. Forest firefighting and forest vertilizing in Washington State and Oregon were tasks undertaken with these helicopters.

Mr. Wall first flew the H-43A while assigned to DET.16, WARC at Williams AFB, AZ.


For more photos of the H-43A flying with civilian registation , click here 



update 12/08/2019