TIL that a US Army helicopter mechanic, upset he couldn’t be a pilot, stole a Huey chopper & flew around DC. When he returned to the White House a 2nd time, Secrete Service fired over 300 rounds. Hit 5 times, Pvt Preston landed & was tackled trying to gain entry. He spent just 8 months in prison.

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<this happens all the time…..apparently>. True story, which I had to reconfirm after his passing… My step father earned himself a general discharge (later upgraded) for apparently deciding one day to steal an Army Huey from Germany and fly it to England(?…not sure that’s possible in a Huey…) with some of his buddies. This was during the Vietnam era. For some time, I lived my life wondering if I made that up in my head, or if maybe he was fucking with me as a kid or something, but recently I reached out to people that would know and they were like….oh yea….


>On February 17, 1974, U.S. Army Private Robert K. Preston took off in a stolen Bell UH-1B Iroquois “Huey” helicopter from Tipton Field, Maryland, and landed it on the South Lawn of the White House in a significant breach of security. Preston had enlisted in the Army to become a helicopter pilot. However, he did not graduate from the helicopter training course. He lost his opportunity to attain the rank of warrant officer pilot. His enlistment bound him to serve four years in the Army, and he was sent to Fort Meade as a helicopter mechanic. Preston believed that this situation was unfair and later said that he stole the helicopter to show his skill as a pilot. >Shortly after midnight, Preston, on leave, was returning to Tipton Field, south of Fort Meade. Thirty helicopters at the base were fueled and ready to fly; he took off in one without anti-collision lights on or making the standard radio calls. The Maryland State Police were alerted. Preston flew southwest toward Washington, D.C., where he hovered close to the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and over the South Lawn of the White House. He then flew back toward Fort Meade, with two Bell 206 JetRanger police helicopters and police cars in pursuit. After a chase over Maryland, he reversed course toward Washington again and entered the White House grounds. This time, the Secret Service opened fire. Preston was lightly wounded, landed the helicopter, and was arrested and held in custody. >Preston pleaded guilty to “wrongful appropriation and breach of the peace” in the plea bargain at his court-martial. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of US$2,400 (equivalent to $12,594 in 2020). He had already been in prison for six months and had to serve six additional months. After his release, Preston received a general discharge from the army, then lived a quiet life, married, and died of cancer in 2009. The speculation is because Vietnam was coming to close and the Army had way too many pilots to begin with, this is why he was flunked out of the helicopter pilot program. Here’s the thing to think about: this 20 year old kid managed to get the Huey off the base, fly by several landmarks and then returning back to Ft Mead was chased by two police choppers. Even after bullets tore into his aircraft and himself (FIVE times), he still managed to land and was tackled as he *ran* towards the White House. This is a guy the Army didn’t think should be one of their pilots???


Sounds like it was worth it.


Dude would’ve been blown out of the sky the second he was remotely close to WH airspace if he did it today.


300 rounds seems a little excessive. I mean, who do the secret service think they are, the police or something?