HT-8, along with its sister squadrons, HT-18 and HT-28, provides advanced helicopter flight instruction to all U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flight students as well as international students from several allied nations. Students who successfully complete the program earn the right to wear the coveted "Wings of Gold." HT-8 flies the TH-57 Bell 206 JetRanger. The unit generally uses the call sign "Eight Ball" over the radio.
The three basic colors of HT-8’s patch - red, white and blue - represent the colors of the U.S. flag, and are indicative of HT-8’s nickname, "America's Squadron", created in the 1980s. The three colors also commemorate the universality of our squadron's students, instructors and staff hailing from all parts of the United States. The overall field is sectored into three equal portions to symbolize training for the three sea services of the US Navy, the US Marine Corps and the US Coast Guard.
A helicopter profile at the patch’s center symbolizes advanced rotary training, and is orange to reflect the traditional color of orange on all Navy training aircraft. Interestingly, there are three versions of the tail rotor on the right side of the helicopter profile. The original version is a simple cross to indicate the blades of a tail rotor. Common lore is that a squadron commanding officer changed the tail rotor design during the Vietnam War to a peace sign, as a silent protest to the war. Then in the 1990s, another commanding officer devised yet a third design, a script-like 'S', this time reflecting the Sikorsky aircraft "S," probably reflecting his preference for Sikorsky aircraft - despite the fact that the squadron had by then transitioned to the TH-57 Sea Ranger, a Bell company product. All three versions of the patch are worn by squadron pilots to this day.
The cloud shape (some say it resembles the state of Georgia, backwards) and storm in the upper left quadrant are superimposed by helicopter turn needle and ball instruments, and indicate that students at HT-8 are trained in instrument flight. The orange helicopter profile is facing as if it is flying into the cloud, signifying the confidence HT-8's students have in their ability to fly in all weather conditions.
The 18 stars in the upper right quadrant - in the shape of an '8' - reflect the fact that advanced rotary flight students originally began their training at HT-8, completing only familiarization training (now known as 'contact' training) in this squadron. Following their fam solo at HT-8 the students would then transfer to HT-18 to complete the rest of their training (therefore HT-18 was "in the stars" for HT-8 students). In 1986 both HT-8 and HT-18 became "mirror image" squadrons, training students from contact flying through advanced tactics.
The gold wings in the lower quadrant symbolize the goal of all students who enter advanced rotary wing training at HT-8 - designation as an "unrestricted" naval aviator, or one who is uniquely qualified to fly both fixed wing and rotary wing naval aircraft.