Skip to comments.Musings of a helo driver... (Vanity)
Posted on 08/25/2012 3:42:46 PM PDT by llevrok
Musings of a helo driver...
Anything that screws its way into the sky flies according to unnatural principals.
You never want to sneak up behind an old, high-time helicopter pilot and clap your hands.
He will instantly dive for cover and most likely whimper...then get up and smack you.
There are no old helicopters laying around airports like you see old airplanes.
There is a reason for this. Come to think of it, there are not many old, high-time helicopter pilots
hanging around airports either so the first issue is problematic.
You can always tell a helicopter pilot in anything moving: a train, an airplane, a car or a boat.
They never smile, they are always listening to the machine and they always hear something they think is not right. Helicopter pilots fly in a mode of intensity, actually more like "spring loaded", while waiting for pieces of their ship to fall off.
Flying a helicopter at any altitude over 500 feet is considered reckless and should be avoided.
Flying a helicopter at any altitude or condition that precludes a landing in less than 20 seconds is considered outright foolhardy.
Remember in a helicopter you have about 1 second to lower the collective in an engine failure before the craft becomes unrecoverable. Once you've failed this maneuver the machine flies about as well as a 20 case Coke machine. Even a perfectly executed autorotation only gives you a glide ratio slightly better than that of a brick. 180 degree autorotations are a violent and aerobatic maneuver in my opinion and should be avoided.
When your wings are leading, lagging, flapping, precessing and moving faster than your fuselage there's something unnatural going on. Is this the way men were meant to fly?
While hovering, if you start to sink a bit, you pull up on the collective while twisting the throttle, push with your left foot (more torque) and move the stick left (more translating tendency) to hold your spot. If you now need to stop rising, you do the opposite in that order. Sometimes in wind you do this many times each second. Don't you think that's a strange way to fly?
For Helicopters: You never want to feel a sinking feeling in your gut (low "g" pushover) while flying a two bladed under slung teetering rotor system. You are about to do a snap-roll to the right and crash.
For that matter, any remotely aerobatic maneuver should be avoided in a Huey.
Don't push your luck. It will run out soon enough anyway.
If everything is working fine on your helicopter consider yourself temporarily lucky.
Something is about to break.
Harry Reasoner once wrote the following about helicopter pilots:
"The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by its nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by an incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying; immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter. This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooding introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened it is about to."
Having said all this, I must admit that flying in a helicopter is one of the most satisfying and exhilarating experiences I have ever enjoyed: skimming over the tops of trees at 100 knots is something we should all be able to do at least once.
And remember the fighter pilot's prayer: "Lord I pray for the eyes of an eagle, the heart of a lion and the balls of a combat helicopter pilot."
Many years later I know that it was sometimes anything but fun, but now it IS something to brag about for those of us who survived the experience.
I have a lot of time, both military and civilian, riding in those contraptions.
Here in my area, I know and have know most of the chopper pilots. Over the last 30+ years, 7-8 of them met their demise. I considered all of them be be great pilots.
I think about that every now and then ~ actually every time I see a helicopter flyover from Quantico to the Pentagon.
They're better now ~
I can add those VTOL Harrier pilots to this list helo:
RIP Ken Donolley, USMC, TAMU 1978, Fish Drill Team Captain, 1974.
It’s been a few years since I’ve last flown. Prolly won’t have the need or the requirement to do it anymore, but like you, I remember many lives lost everytime I’m around or see these things. My first ride was in the late 60’s, so I’ve dodged a lot of chances to go down.
My father browbeat the army into sending him to flight school in the late 50’s (he lined up a civilian job, and threatened to resign if he wasn’t sent to flight school). Late 50’s, early 60’s, the Army required it’s pilots to qualify in both fixed-wing and helicopters, so he did both. He always claimed to be the first instrument qualified helicopter pilot in the Arny. Lot’s of great stories about flight schools, and the instructors. He wrote a bit of a memoir a few years before his death- all quite interesting.
Dad was a very calm individual- obviously spent most of his flight time in airplanes :).
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Traffic was stopped on the freeway. Talked to the truck driver parked next to me. He was an ex-helicopter pilot who had failed his physical. Based on CB evidence, he claimed that the IQ of the average truck driver was equal to the outdoor temperature.
Good post - been working with rotorcraft since 1980 - have seen an H-53 do a loop - damndest thing you ever saw - ‘course it was a very BIG loop....
May God rest his soul, and ease theirs and yours.
May God bless.
You guys are all amazing. I love to fly, but am scared to death of helos. I am so glad you are all home, and I can’t thank you all enough for doing what we are all afraid to do, especially the guys who pick up our wounded, unarmed and with painted targets.
It would have to be a 53 to carry aloft that big a set of gonads.
To fly is heavenly. To hover, divine.
You would be totally amazed!
You just got to stand in awe of any one so G D goofy to want (actually WANT) to fly one of these. That's a special kind of flyer, IMHO.
FRinks on the house to all of you so nucking futs! I love you all.
I am old enough to remember and to have laughed at “Air Wolf”. It was a program about a ‘supersonic-capable’ help. When I started detailing all of the impossibilities of this, I just gave up and switched channels.
Fixed wing aircraft work even when parts fall off, rotary works until parts fail. Fixed wings glide, rotary don’t.
Durned spellchecker made the 'o' turn into a 'p' - Aaarrrggggghhhh!
In the early days of our cable TV system around here when they started adding channels past the basic networks and the Chicago and Atlanta superstations they added one channel that showed that stupid Air Wolf show all friggin day. We jokingly referred to it locally as the Helicopter Channel.
as to fixed-wing VS. fling-wing.....Give me the fling-wing every time!!!!....(if nothing else, its good for the heart rate and adrenal gland)
I flew Hueys in Vietnam 1971-72. Stayed on flight status in reserves until 1986. Came back as a ground warrant in 1994. Retired last year. My wife is a CW5, outranks me. Now we’re both retired. Life is good.
I’ve only made two Huey flights in my life. Flew from Tan Son Nhut up to Nui Ba Den. Anybody who says that he wasn’t scared shirtless on his first flight over Injun Country is either lying though his teeth or has balls the size of pumpkins.
Don't fool yourself!!!.....lose the power in a fixed wing...You're TOAST!
Lose the power in a helicopter and u have any altitude...you can safely land on a dime!...Helo Pilots practice that all the time...AUTOROTATION is your friend!!!...(of course you only get one shot at it!)
This guy is pretty good..but I've seen better!
Still driving 60’s. A’s, L’s and now M’s.
-55’s and Hueys way back when.
Many thanks to the Vietnam Vets who taught us.
WOFT class 83-37
Who could forget flyby’s every two weeks on grad day at Rucker?!?!?!!
YOU GOT IT!.....Cav Ho...Scouts out!
I knew I was gonna sleep fairly securely!!
as one old “higher up” explained.....Men are expendable...Helicopters are not!....(I got to go with the Bird) and BTW....Welcome home Brother.......
(It's kinda funny now...but crew-members actually did use the pucker factor when discussing the days events)
Pucker factor was off the charts, bro. But then I’m afraid of spiders, too.
Oh jeez you brought back my biggest regret flying in Vietnam we had an add-on mission to Nui Ba Den the mountain of the Black Virgin. I remember climbing toward that big peak it was like a pyramid I tried to get some photos but just then I ran out of film! We landed on a platform there were like stone building ruins around. Took off & went from the summit right down the mountainside & there were no foothills, old Nui Ba Den just rose out of the level ground around it.
At night in our AO we could see the threshhold lights of the active at Tan Son Nhut. Came back forty years ago this month August. All seems like yesterday.
Yes, our wives outrank us & we love them for it. Only when my `she who must be obeyed’ gives me a “directive”, instead of “yes, dear” I say “OK Chief, I’m on it”. Then I get reminded we’re not in the military anymore. Love it, just love it.
Your friend was one to be much admired. While all Marine officers have qualities to be respected, none so much as a Marine helicoptor pilot. So much of what I learned of leadership and truly being a man, I learned from the pilots of MAG-16 at Marble Mountain. Their bravery was unmatched and they treated those who rode in the back with respect.
Had a neighbor when I was a kid that was a 7th air cav huey pilot....then later on instructed at Fort Rucker. Ray Cole. Coolest Dad on the block. Could whip me in chess within 25-30 moves with his knights....everytime.
Dad flew Caribou in VN, then came back and learned to fly rotary so he could be XO of the warrant battalion at Rucker. We lived across from the parade field, and as kids we would count the helos in the graduation formation flights across the parade field.
I’ll put in a plug here for a cool organization, the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation. They do some awesome airshows with lots of rotary wing elements. Recommended.
They’re based at the airport in Hampton, GA, next to Atlanta Raceway (the NASCAR track, whatever the official name is). They do shows all over the place. A buddy who is involved with the group says they are the 3rd most requested air show group, behind the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, but ahead of the Golden Knights.
Heh! See my previous post. I remember watching those same flybys when I was in the 2nd and 3rd grade, 66-67 timeframe. Could have been some of your instructors in those formations.
Go see my post 40. I think they’ve got some events here in town if you’re here and can make it. I won’t be in town, or I might try to go.
Awesome man...thanks for sharing. Love to watch the helo’s show out.
Thanks for the link to the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation. Now I know I’m getting old—was in flight school with one of those guys in front of the Cobra.
Will have to make it to one of their shows.
started when blades were wood and the electric starter was optional - parts flying off put me down 17 times - 2 engine failures in the same day. got the 180 autorotation down to 200 feet in H-19. Sprayed bananas in Guatemala with serial # 11 bell H-13 (mod 47) Nobody left to reminisce with. Nobody understands the mindset of old helo pilots -
around 1981 I had aseasonal job with the Forest Service doing wildland firefighting
I got to go on Helitack for a while at the end of the season to be a crew replacement
I just did a search of where the helicopter is and discovered Don crashed that Bell 206B long ranger and died in 1986 , he actually let me fly it by the stick over the san Jacinto mountains for about 10 minutes one day
we had some good times , he was a good pilot but I suppose he just put his head in the lions mouth one too many times.
RIP my crazy buddy Don Land ells !!!!
not sure if I can be sad for Don he died doing what he loved , just sad for the passengers
once when we were flying out crews and it was down to just him and me last flight of the day , he asked if I was up for a hell ride, I said "Hell Yah"
we buzzed through the trees in a meadow near the top of the Palm Springs Tram and skirted treetops inches from the skids at max speed , then he flew over the ridge crest where the mountain drops straight down into Palm Springs, there was a steady marine influence wind coming off the top of the ridge spilling into the desert heat upift,
Don said "hold on to your ......" and started to ascend the side of the cliff verticle with the nose of the helicopter facing up, we were scarcely 50 feet from the side of the nearly vertical granite cliff and the helicopter blades were at a nearly vertical plane climbing slowly up the side , the craft was shaking under full power and heavy rotor cyclic to maintain maximum torque , as we neared to crest the aircraft caught the stream of air spilling over the top and lifted violently horizontally when the rotors hooked up so we had the effect of being shot from a catapault horizontally through the air while laying back and looking straight up at blue sky, he then hit full rudder and a rebel yell and we were looking down at Palm springs from about 8.000 feet, what an indescribable thrill , I actully had a thought he was suicidal at that point and for a time thought "what a way to die" and I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest and explode during the whole ordeal, then he told me that I was absolutely not allowed to tell anyone about our little joy ride or he could lose his Forest service contract and he would make life very difficult for me and I assured him he had my word ,
but I think its OK to tell the story now, he'll have to reach out from the grave to wring my neck
As a young man, while I was along for the ride performing these stunts, I remember thinking we had a good probability of dying but I didnt care and figured it would be an awesome way to go out and was way worth the risk ! and I think Don did too and knew I would be up for it because he saw me get crazy on my 650 Yamaha dirt sled on the helitack road, maybe thats why he requested me for the crew , now that I think about it
sorry that I have no pictures from those days , I could barely afford food, much less a disposable camera and developing
I searched through some old stuff and found this hat pilot Landells gave me , I wanted the Helitack hat but they were out of them at the time
I like to tell this story hope someone understands
Not everyone that flew on those Slicks were too dumb
or lying that they were not scared...we were just young
The first time we went out to Khe Sahn I rode in a jeep
with a drunk Sgt driving..went into a rice field,lost
my m16,its a wonder thinking back it didn`t overturn
and land on us
Clearly your Guardian Angel was busy that day. Glad you made it back, bro.
Here’s a helicopter story you might enjoy:
In mid October 1968, sometime during the brief stand down Project Delta took in Nha Trang between the Quan Loi deployment and the deployment to An Hoa, several of us recon team leaders were invited to go for a demonstration ride with one of the helicopter pilots we knew in Nha Trang. The pilots helicopter unit had recently traded in their old UH-1Ds for brand new UH-1Hs and he was anxious to show off his new bird. I wont reveal the pilots name or unit and youll soon understand why.
Four of us met the pilot and his crew one morning at the units helicopter revetments, boarded a brand new UH-1H, and away we went. The pilot predicated the flight by stating, To compare this new H model to a D model is like comparing a Ferrari with a dump truck, now let me show you what this baby can do. We made several practice insertions and lift offs on LZs we found in the mountains around Nha Trang, and we were quite impressed with the new birds capabilities. After about thirty minutes of flying around the Nha Trang hillsides, we flew back to Nha Trang and dropped off two of the recon team leaders who had seen enough already, and we took off again.
But this time, the pilot flew us out past Hon Tre Island and well out into the South China Sea, and he did this to make sure there would be no witnesses to what he intended to do. The pilot told us over the intercom that with the increased capability of this new Huey, he was sure he could loop the aircraft. When he told us that, with me not knowing the capabilities and limitations of a UH-1H, I thought, That sure sounds exciting. But when I looked over and saw the unmistakable expression of abject terror in the crew chiefs face, I knew then it was going to be not only exciting, it was going to be really exciting.
The pilot swore us all to eternal silence for what we were about to do, had the door gunner and crew chief pull in the M-60s and tie them down securely, and made sure we were all belted down tightly. Then he said, Watch this, (No, he didnt say, Hold my beer, watch this, as is usually said before such stunts.) and he took that UH-1H up to about 5,000 feet and looped it, or at least I think he looped it.
The whole thing was probably over in less than half a minute, and for most of the event my memory is a blur. My memory isnt blurred because of the forty years of time thats passed since then, its because the incident was actually blurred. I have a clear memory of the pilot taking the Huey up to about 5,000 feet altitude and our airspeed increasing to well over 120 knots, but then it starts to get blurry. I remember the pilot putting the Huey into a steeper climb than I ever thought possible in a Huey; I remember being upside down; I remember the sensation of falling like a rock while upside down, and I remember hearing the engine RPM revving to a speed I had never heard before. Im not sure how far we fell while upside down before the falling sensation changed to feet first, but Im pretty sure we fell through most of our 5,000 ft of altitude before we finally regained stable flight.
As soon as we had leveled out and were skimming along across the wave-tops, the pilots calm voice came over the intercom and said, See, I told you I could loop this baby, as if any of us had ever doubted him. I glanced over at the crew chief again and saw that he was petrified with fear, and I didnt want anyone to think Mrs. Taylors idiot son could ever be frightened by such a mundane stunt as looping a Huey, so I keyed my mic and said, Damn, that was fun! Lets do it again. When the crew chief, obviously the only completely sane person on board, heard what I said over the intercom, I could tell he was seriously contemplating exiting the aircraft without benefit of a parachute. He had already determined he stood a much better chance of surviving the impact with the water and a swim back to the mainland in shark infested water than he did of surviving another loop in that Huey.
The pilot answered me with, Nah, it looks like this bird needs a little maintenance. I cant get this pesky Master Caution light to quit flashing. It was then that I noticed a bump-shudder-whine-thump noise coming from somewhere in the engine and or drive train that didnt sound too healthy. We limped back into Nha Trang, parked that tired little bird in its revetment (talk about being rode hard and put away wet), and adjourned to the Delta Hilton for post-op libations.
By about the fifth round of Budweiser, we had all stopped arguing and agreed that the pilot had indeed looped the Huey. We had been on a heading of roughly 90 degrees, climbed steeply, pointed the nose of the aircraft backward toward 270 degrees, and then fell through the arc to a heading once again of 90 degrees. Some of us thought loop might not have been adequately descriptive. Maybe tumbled, maybe flipped, but looped was just too smooth a sounding word to properly describe what we had just done in a UH-1H.
The pilot probably made aviation history that day, but he could never tell anyone about it. Until now, Im pretty sure no one else on board that helicopter that day has ever talked about the flight with anyone who wasnt there. The pilot, now retired, went on to a long and distinguished career in Army Aviation, and I doubt if he would want a story going around relating to his wild young days as a Lieutenant in Vietnam when he would push an aircraft far past its maximum capability and think nothing of it, so I will never, under any circumstances, divulge the pilots name.
Yes, I know; Ive just broken my word and revealed a secret I swore I would keep forever, but its been over forty years now and I didnt give up the pilots name, so that should be worth something.
That’s a great story and I am so glad you shared that with those of us here at FR.
My brother in law flew in VN c1964 (so in D’s or C’s ?). To here him tell stories, his old birds did loops all the time —— just not intentionally. :-).
The thing that impresses the the hell out of me is that drivers in the 1960’s were given - by today’s standards - very basic flying skills and sent off into harm’s way. Talk about on the job training!!
When Gen. Hal Moore penned the book title “ We Were soldiers once...and Young”, the “and young” probably explains how and why so many flew so brilliantly. God love them all !