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Shell Army Heliport

Shell Army Heliport is an integral part of the operations at Fort Rucker and is located to the southwest of the Fort. Shell Army Heliport is 293 acres in size and was first acquired in 1962.

Fort Rucker officials announced Sept. 1, 2000, that increased flight training for Fiscal Year 2001 and beyond required the U.S. Army Aviation Center to increase flight operations at Shell Army Heliport near Enterprise early in 2001. Operations at the 246-acre heliport were reduced significantly in 1993 after training programs were decreased and flight operations were consolidated and re-aligned among Cairns Army Airfield, and Lowe, Hanchey and Knox Army Heliports.

The increased flight training at Shell are conducted for about 1,125 students in the Primary and Basic Combat Skills (BCS) phases of the OH-58 Track of the Initial Entry Rotary Wing (IERW) course in FY 01, up from about 850 in FY 2000. The program for FY02 calls for about 1200 students to go through Primary and BCS in the OH-58. Total student input for IERW during FY 00 was about 1,000.

This training is conducted in the OH-58A and C Kiowa. Other IERW training is conducted in the TH-67 Creek and the UH-1 Iroquois ("Huey"). The OH-58 is one of the smallest and quietest aircraft in the Army inventory. Additional OH-58As and Cs were delivered from various Army locations to accommodate the increased training.

Initially, about 100 were based at Shell; with approximately 50 more being phased in as training requirements increase. The Kiowa fleet had been based for several years at Lowe Army Heliport, which does not have sufficient maintenance facilities or parking areas to handle the additional aircraft.

Since Shell Field was established in the 1950s, the types of aircraft and numbers of flights in and out of the facility have varied widely. It has been an active airfield for fixed-wing and rotary-wing training in varying degrees. Flight operations at Shell Field began when it was opened as an Auxiliary Airfield Number 3 in 1957. At that time, the airfield was quite some distance outside the Enterprise city limits. The facility soon began substantial improvements, and was dedicated as Shell Army Airfield in 1962.

In 1965, fixed-wing training was shifted to Lowe, and Shell was used as the basefield for Primary Phase flight training. In 1981, an Army Reserve unit used Shell for its base while Knox Field was being modernized. Shell continued as the basefield for Primary flight training in the TH-55 Osage for many years until that aircraft model was replaced with the UH-1 Iroquois as an interim primary trainer.

In 1993, Shell was temporarily inactivated as a basefield. Though the control tower, fire station and other facilities were no longer staffed, Shell was used as a training area for several periods during the intervening years.

A team of military and civilian personnel studied in detail several options for locating the OH-58s and the BCS training. The option to locate at Shell was found to be the best choice. The studies included many factors including, but not limited to: airspace safety, maintenance efficiencies, aircraft parking flexibility, contract maintenance costs, one-time costs, community relations, classroom availability, and the number of flight training units affected. They also reviewed flight routes to improve safety and minimize impact on local communities.

U.S. Army Aviation Center operations at Shell Army Heliport are conducted under two complementary programs. The Fly Neighborly and noise abatement programs, in place for years, continue, as well as periodic reviews of operations as they relate to environmental considerations. The 24-hour noise complaint line, 255-2680, remains active. Briefly stated, the program includes planning flight routes and corridors to enhance safety and minimize impact on local communities.

American airspace is public domain, and aircraft are free to fly anywhere that is consistent with Federal Aviation Regulations. In the interest of being good neighbors, the Aviation Center also goes to considerable lengths. Aviators are carefully briefed to avoid low-level flight in areas where it is unnecessary and could potentially interfere with residential, agricultural or livestock interests. Effects outside the fence should be no more severe than could be measured around the perimeters at other airfields. Because the OH-58 is smaller and quieter than most other Army helicopters, the effects can be expected to be even less.

Increased flight operations at Shell Army Heliport near Enterprise early in 2001 follow a daily routine to train flight students in Basic Combat Skills using the OH-58 Kiowa. Daily operations at the 246-acre heliport start with the staff beginning to arrive about 5 a.m., and flight training will begin around 7:30. Morning training flights will conclude about 11:30 a.m. Afternoon training will involve take-offs beginning about 1 p.m. and most aircraft returning about 4:30 p.m. Night training flights will begin about twilight and end usually before 1 a.m. Occasionally there will be training flights on Saturdays to make up for bad weather during the week. We've avoided Sunday training flights as a matter of policy, and will continue that way unless Sunday training flights become absolutely necessary under the most extreme circumstances. Maintenance continues around the clock, with maintenance test flights conducted when necessary, including weekends, to ensure training aircraft are checked out and airworthy.

Lieutenant John R. Shell was born on 17 December 1917 at Franklin, AR. He enlisted as a Private for Battery C, 206th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft), Arkansas National Guard on 2 December 1937. He rose to Corporal and was honorably discharged upon completing service on 1 December 1940. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery Reserve on 12 May 1941. He graduated as a pilot in Class 2 in 1942 at the Department of Air Training, Fort Sill, OK. In October 1942 he reported to Camp Pickett, VA, where he joined two groups of liaison pilots. Captain Ford E. Alcorn chose Shell and 2 others--Captain Brenton A. Devol and Lieutenant William H. Butler--for a special mission. The group proceeded to Bermuda where they joined the aircraft carrier, USS RANGER, and 3 L-4 aircraft. Shell and the 2 others flew these planes ashore in the North African invasion to become the first Army Aviators in combat. Flying in from about 60 miles at sea, the group took heavy fire from allied ships. Shortly after arriving in North Africa, Shell was assigned as Aviation Officer with the 1st Armored Division. On 6 May 1943, just south of Mateur, Tunisia, he was killed by a German 88mm gun.



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