For 13 years, the Vietnam-era HU-1 "Huey" helicopter has rested at the Fort Discovery entrance, beckoning children to explore its cockpit. Toggles, switches, gauges and levers spark imaginary flights.
On Thursday, the Huey briefly will lift off again, but not under its own power.
A crane will lift the Huey onto a tractor-trailer for hauling to its new home at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. The National Science Center closed Fort Discovery on Dec. 31.
The Huey belongs to the Army, so it needed to remain within Army channels, said Ollie Washington, the deputy director of the Army staff at the National Science Center.
The helicopter was one component in a medevac telemetry exhibit that demonstrated how information was transferred from a medevac helicopter to a base station, Washington said.
With a red medical cross painted on the helicopter's sides, the hospital seemed an appropriate home for it, "just to symbolize another part of the hospital role and function," Washington said.
Hueys were put into service in 1962 during the Vietnam War and were originally designed for medical evacuations.
At that time, medical information was transferred from helicopter to the hospital by radio, giving hospitals time to prepare for incoming patients.
The helicopter at Fort Discovery came from Fort Rucker's Army Rotary Aviation School, Washington said.
The chopper itself seemed to become more of an attraction than the medical telemetry exhibit.
"Lots of folks just enjoyed getting that close to the helicopter," Washington said.
It will be displayed alongside other military equipment on the hospital grounds. Visitors will be discouraged from climbing on it, Washington said.