Taylor was recently awarded the distinction of “Best Display” for the masterful restoration of his helicopter at the military vehicle preservation show in Belleview, Fla. The statewide Military Vehicle Preservation Association made a surprise presentation of the award to Taylor at its February awards banquet.
Taylor, who served as a U.S. Navy helicopter door gunner during his tour of duty in 1971-72, has spent hundreds of hours restoring the helicopter for display purposes.
Taylor says he prefers air shows to museums because attendees can get inside the helicopter, examine the equipment and ask questions, rather than view from afar.
“It brings veterans out to these air shows because they can tell the kids and grandkids their stories and actually point to the equipment they used. It’s part of history,” says Taylor, “so they (veterans) get to pass their legacy down to their grandchildren, and they get to sit in the seats where granddad sat – instead of standing in a museum or looking at a picture book. They get to actually touch it – and that’s where the excitement comes from.”
Taylor’s helmets are outfitted with two-way communications and authentic transmissions (of radio chatter) by helicopter pilots while engaged in combat. An engine simulator with fire and exhaust belching from the rear of the aircraft gives those who are seated in the cockpit a feeling of authenticity and the magnitude of war.
Also blaring from speakers outside the helicopter is a sound system playing music from the Vietnam era, including speeches by President Lyndon Johnson committing the nation to war, a later speech by President Johnson escalating the war, and President Richard Nixon announcing that the United States had reached an agreement to end the war in Vietnam. “It gives the music of the time that these veterans would remember, as well as the speeches,” added Taylor.
He outfits visitors with flak jackets, helmets and movie-prop weapons that are exact replicas of those used by U.S. servicemen at the time of the Vietnam conflict. “The (guns) are so realistic that the veterans ‘thump’ the weapon to see if it’s real or not,” notes Taylor.
His next scheduled event is the Eglin Air Force Base Air Show in Panama City, Fla., on April 10-11.