1965 Drone Helicopter Restored To Debut At Jacksonville Naval Museum Action News Jax

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JACKSONVILLE — As the Jacksonville Naval Museum prepares to debut this summer, a local business has stepped up to help make this grand opening even bigger and better.

Action News Jax has been following the progress of the Naval Museum in Jacksonville – from when the USS Orleck docked along the Northbank Riverwalk in March.

Over the months, a QH-50C Helicopter Anti-Submarine (DASH), nicknamed “Snoopie”, has received some much-needed attention.

USS ORLECK INTERIOR OVERVIEW: The USS Orleck will be the centerpiece of the Jacksonville Naval Museum

The local group Aviation Systems Engineering Company (ASEC) has carried out a restoration project, and the drone will soon be craned onto the flight deck of the USS Orleck.

Action News Jax spoke with Bryan Wooley, a 26-year Navy veteran who works with ASEC.

“If you can imagine a soda can sitting on the coast of Louisiana since 2004 – dealing with all the hurricanes and bad weather that’s been there,” Wooley said. “That thing was a mess.”

So they made the decision to give the drone the restoration they thought it deserved.

“Me and a few co-workers tore it down completely, took the motor out, sandblasted it, then started putting it back together and painting it,” Wooley said.

ASEC and several local suppliers have been working on the drone since February.

“It instills a lot of pride in me to be able to participate in such a unique piece of history and give it back to the fighters – and at the same time bring the community together to support the Orlecks,” Wooley said. “It means a lot.”

So far, this renovation process has cost over $31,000.

“They’ve got a set of torpedoes that they’re going to put underneath,” Wooley said. “It carried two Mark 44 torpedoes which flew up to 40 miles from the ship to engage the enemy during the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts.”

The USS Orleck had the same type of drone on board during wartime.

Action News Jax spoke with Wayne Johnston (USS Benner DD807) who served in the United States Navy from 1967 to 1969.

He was a ship’s navigator and says watching this unveiled drone brings back memories.

“The way we used it in Vietnam was we took out the torpedoes, wrapped body armor around it, put a camera in it, and flew it down the rivers,” Johnston said.

He said he remembers a few of the drones getting lost.

“We used to come back from a flight uphill, spot our prescription and you’d see the body armor had holes in it and things like that,” Johnston said. “You could see on camera guys shooting it.”

Soon veterans and community members of all ages will have a chance to reflect on this piece of history – saved and remembered.

Navy veteran Justin Weakland is the Vice President of the Jacksonville Naval Museum. He expressed his gratitude to the local vendors who helped turn the vision into reality.

“Building a museum in downtown Jacksonville takes a community effort,” Weakland said. “You guys showed it.”

The museum will open to the public this summer.

According to ASEC, this project was also made possible with the help of the following local suppliers: Chris Leech, Pat Moore, Tim Petrich, Mike Marrinan, Glenn Plower, Powdertech Plus, Tony Diaz, Single Source Inc, Brad’s Custom Auto & Sales, Scorpion Racing Product Inc, Copeland Welding & Muffler Shop and Logo Depot.

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