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Every Helicopter Is a Huey

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Skroeder: ...and I'm going to need some Hueys.
Howard Marner: Some what?
Skroeder: HELICOPTERS, Howard. Jesus Christ!
Howard Marner: I thought they were choppers.
Skroeder: Well, now they're called Hueys.
Howard Marner: Well, why wasn't I notified?

Every time the heroes in an action movie or TV show have to go somewhere by helicopter, chances are they'll be doing it in a member of the Bell Huey family. This is justified in Vietnam War movies: the UH-1D Iroquois is a symbol of US involvement in Vietnam, with over 7,000 of them seeing service (and many, many more of other military and civilian models since—Bell is still making Hueys today). What with the Vietnam War occurring during the rise of television media, meaning that TV's themselves were becoming household items back in the United States, war footage was a common sight on the nightly news, and thus the UH-1 got a lot of airtime, cementing it in the minds of children and adults alike as the quintessential example of U.S. Military equipment, even after the Vietnam War ended in the mid-1970's. It helps, though, that the UH-1 itself saw a long and storied career through several other conflicts and several other forms, not being completely retired from active military service until 2005, and even then it is still a very active helicopter in the civilian market, as detailed below.

As a dedicated troop transport helicopter, it's a natural choice for The Squad - it's hard to roll out after a Lock-and-Load Montage in an MD-500 which only fits two actors. Their looks also help convey a tough, militaristic feel and suggest a military movie in the way a less easily-recognizable helicopter might not. In a gunship situation, expect two heavily-armed attack choppers flown by nameless pilots in formation with a Huey carrying a named character.

It's not only military action movies that favor the Huey. Their versatility, reliability, ready availability as surplus, low cost, and ease of maintenance has them showing up pretty much every other time a helicopter's needed as well. Hence Bell 204/205/212 helicopters, all civilian Hueys, see very heavy usage for everything from logging to firefighting (it's definitely the single most popular type as a fire-bomber) to VIP transport, with Bell continuing to roll new ones off the assembly line even after fifty years in production. Though the US Army started replacing Hueys with Black Hawks as the general-purpose transport helicopter as long ago as 1979, they still keep a lot of them flying for various odd jobs.note  The same is true of the other branches, except the Marine Corps, who not only still use them in a front-line role but are also currently taking delivery of the newest, highly-advanced UH-1Y model; it's commonly said in the US Military that when the last Blackhawk is deleted from the inventory, it will be slingloaded to the Boneyard by a Huey.

In the movies they still show up everywhere even now - even places they have no right to be, in countries that never flew them. As a general rule:

  • Hueys have a 50-50 chance of showing up in a fully civilian movie, where Bell JetRangers and other models appear just as often;
  • A somewhat-military movie, or a movie featuring the military that skimped on research, will almost invariably have Hueys and follow this trope;
  • A well-researched military movie will only feature Hueys as appropriate - for instance, when dealing with the Vietnam era, or for Marine UH-1N Twin Hueys or UH-1Y Super Hueys.

Characters in action films are particularly prone to stumbling across them fuelled up, ready to fly and very often fully-armed (often as not with weapons no real Huey ever dreamed of carrying). This is pretty unlikely now, never mind 20 Minutes into the Future, but even there everyone will be flying Hueys. In action movies it's likely one of the cast will also know how to pilot one, however unlikely it is they'd have had any chance to learn how. In the few cases that the characters are not traveling in a Huey it's possible it'll still sound like they are, which is rather like suggesting every prop plane sounds like a Cessna. Perhaps because the UH-1 is so ubiquitous that it's just how helicopters are expected to sound. note 

When the Huey shows up appropriately - for example in period movies and situations where they'd likely be seen - it's just a sign the filmmakers did the research. Its appearance can also be justified as a deliberate stylistic choice where the moviemakers are trying to draw parallels between the events in the movie and The Vietnam War - the rest of the time this trope applies. Then again, the Huey is extremely popular in both the military and civilian worlds even today, so it can be perfectly justified in many settings.

Less likely outside of live-action media, where the cost and availability of aircraft isn't an issue.

This trope is becoming less common as time goes on. More recent films tend to rely more on the Aérospatiale AS350 Ecureuil (or its two-engine counterpart, the AS355 Twin Ecureuil) as their go-to helicopter of choice. Its sleek look, especially when depicted in black, seems to lend itself to the slicker attitude of more modern action films. Insofar as the United States armed forces itself, the Huey's status is slowly being taken over by the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk, which is for all intents and purposes the grandson of the UH-1, albeit made by a different company. The Blackhawk, with its distinctive twin engines, chunky silhouette, and overall utilitarian appearance that all but screams "military aircraft", is rising to take its place in the public eye over the UH-1, especially for depictions of conflict after 1990, such as The Gulf War, The War on Terror, and so on. Still, for the moment, the Huey continues to be a prolific icon of the American armed forces, even for those who are too young to recall when they were in active service.

See also Everybody Owns a Ford. Compare Just Plane Wrong.


No aversions or justifications, please, otherwise this is going to turn into a list of helicopters in movies. Remember: this trope is about Hueys showing up as a generic helicopter in place of other more logical choices.

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  • Mars Attacks!, despite being set in its contemporary 1990s, features the U.S. Army employing old-style Hueys... alongside other 1950s-60s military equipment, in keeping with its spoofing of alien invasion films from that era.
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II a civilian Bell 212 is operated by the Russians. It's probably supposed to be one of the numerous Hueys inherited by the Vietnam People's Air Force after the Fall of Saigon, but none of them were twin-engined. Nor is any attempt made to dress up the pintle-mounted M60 (the E3 model first issued at least a decade after the war, at that) as a Soviet weapon. Not to mention that it bears wrong national insignia and for some reason was operated by Soviets.
  • Despite being set 20 Minutes into the Future Terminator Salvation features several combat-ready Hueys, or possibly the same one showing up and getting shot down over and over again.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it's revealed that even in the 23rd Century people will know how to fly Hueys when Sulu uses one to deliver plexiglass.
  • A particularly glaring example in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, when the team are seen being flown over the Thames by a military unit in a pair of Hueys. The British military never used them at all, begging the question of where on earth the team even found them. Did they bring the helicopters with them?

    Live-Action TV 
  • Chris Ryan's Strike Back: The team are shown flying in a Huey, despite the fact that the British military favor the Westland Lynx. Certainly they've never deployed them in Iraq, where the show is set.
  • Combat Hospital: The primary MEDEVAC helicopter for the Kandahar Airfield Role 3 is some kind of Huey. While the Canadian Forces continue to use Twin Hueys, at least one pilot for the helo is American, and the characters most commonly using on the helo are US Air Force Pararescuemen, who would not be using Hueys.

    Video Games 
  • Owing to The Vietnam War behind one of the primary influences on the plastic soldiers the series is based on, any time a helicopter shows up in the non-air-focused Army Men games, no matter the side or role, it is invariably a Huey. Even the games where the focus is on the helicopters start you off in a Huey, and friendly helicopters will likewise all be Hueys even as the player and the Tan forces upgrade to Blackhawks, Cobras, Super Stallions and Apaches.
  • While enemy helicopters in Project I.G.I. are Hinds, as would be expected from the game being set around the old Soviet bloc, the player's organization itself are stuck with a Huey as their primary means of transport - despite all the other cool toys they have access to, including satellite maps that display the positions of guards in real-time and binoculars that tag any enemies in view. And then there's the Fridge Logic where, since half of the equipment you're working with is the same stuff local forces use (e.g. using AKs stolen from guards far more often than you get the M16, the only sniper rifle being an SVD), the natural low-profile pairing to the Hind would be an Mi-8 Hip, not the Huey.

    Western Animation 
  • In spite of its otherwise high-tech setting, the only US military helicopters ever to appear on Transformers: Prime are Hueys. For example, Agent Fowler flies one twice, in spite of also having access to the cutting edge F-35 Lightning II jet. Weirdly, though, the Hueys on the show seem to be some kind of fictional gunship variant that mounts the M230 chaingun from the Apache.
    • Fowler's use of the Huey is particularly odd in one episode, as Airachnid scans it and immediately transforms into a sleek stealth helicopter. Given that the CGI model for her alt-mode had already been created, and that Transformer alt-modes have otherwise been identical to their scanned vehicles, it makes you wonder why the animators didn't just give Fowler the stealth chopper for that particular scene.