The Punjab Government has gifted a decommissioned Bell 47 helicopter to Combat Army Aviation Training School (CAATS). The relic was unveiled at the CAATS museum by Lt Gen BS Sachar, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Army Training Command, on November 17, 2014. The event coincided with the passing out of 37 Army pilots of the 22 Combat Aviation Course.
The Bell 47-G3 helicopter, bearing serial number BZ544, was the last of the four Bell helicopters procured by the Indian Air Force in 1954. These machines were used extensively for operations and were also pressed into service during the 1962 Indo-China war. Army Aviation pilots flew the Bell 47 for the first time during helicopter conversion training in 1971. BZ-544 was a veteran of the 1962 operations and was the only helicopter that remained with the heli unit operating at Tawang.,
These helicopters were also utilized for conversion of army aviators from fixed wing to rotary wing. The first conversion of army aviators course SER NO HTS -01 was conducted from January to May 1971 on these choppers at the helicopter training school, Jodhpur.
About 30 years ago, the Punjab Government bought the ex-IAF helicopter for imparting technical training to students at the Punjab Aircraft Maintenance Engineering College at Patiala. With piston engine aircraft no longer in vogue, the helicopter had been lying in a relatively good condition in a government hangar in Patiala. The Army got to know about its existence recently and requested the state government for installing it at its training establishment.
In due course, due to the efforts of the Army Aviators fraternity, the helicopter was gifted to the CAATS for preservation and is currently preserved on a pedestal outside.