The H-21 was developed in 1949 and five were delivered to the Marine Corps to test as utility aircraft. It quickly earned the nickname “Flying Banana” due to its odd shape. The aircraft is oddly shaped to prevent the rotors from interfering with one another. The designer, Frank Piasecki, was the first person in the United States to hold a commercial helicopter license. Piasecki Aviation changed its name to Vertol in 1956 and is still designing aircraft as a Boeing division. These early helicopters were used as utility and rescue aircraft in the Korean War. They had inflatable pontoons on the wheels allowing the aircraft to land on water. Considered to be the first heavy lift helicopter, a modified HU-21 made the first nonstop transcontinental helicopter flight on 24 August 1956.
Helicopters - Parked
The museum’s HU-21B has serial number 53-4326. According to the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA/RSA), Maxwell AFB, AL, the museum’s HU-21B has the following history:
- Manufactured by Piasecki Helicopters, Morton PA and delivered to the USAF on 5 Jan 1956.
- Jan 1956 --- To Middletown Air Materiel Area, Olmstead AFB PA
- Apr 1956 --- To 6615th Air Transport (Medium) Squadron (Northeast Air Command), Goose AB Labrador
- Aug 1956 --- To 6606th Air Base Wing (NEAC), Goose AB
- Nov 1956 --- To 22nd Helicopter Squadron (NEAC), Goose AB
- Apr 1957 --- Unit assigned to Strategic Air Command
- Nov 1959 --- To 814th Combat Support Group (SAC), Goose AB
- Jan 1960 --- To 1001st Air Base Wing (Headquarters Command, USAF), Andrews AFB MD
- Aug 1961 --- To 1001st Helicopter Flight (HQC), Bolling AFB DC
- Apr 1962 --- To 1001st Air Base Wing (HQC), Bolling AFB
- Sep 1962 --- To 5010th Combat Support Group (Alaskan Air Command), Eielson AFB AK
- Jun 1963 --- Dropped from inventory as surplus
Unofficial sources state that it was seized during a search warrant drug raid on 13 September 1985. It had been abandoned in the Lake Elsinore area by drug transporters and became the property of the Riverside County Sheriff under Federal Law. It was towed to the museum along public roads early in the morning. It was donated to the museum jointly by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Riverside Police Department in 1991.