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Truths About Helicopters and their Pilots

bullet Helicopter Flight: "A bundle spare parts flying in close formation."
bullet Alternate Definition: "Anything that screws its way into the sky flies according to unnatural principals."
bullet 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 the shit out of you.
bullet There are no old helicopters lying around airports like you see old planes. 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.
bullet 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 machine to fall off.
bullet Flying a helicopter at any altitude over 500 feel is considered reckless and should be avoided. Flying a helicopter at any attitude or condition that precludes a landing in less than 20 seconds is considered outright foolhardy.
bullet Remember in a helicopter you have about 1 second to lower the collective in event of 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.
bullet When your wings are leading, lagging, flapping, processing and moving faster than your fuselage there's something unnatural going on. Is this the way men were meant to fly?
bullet 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 slightly (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. Dont you think that's a strange way to fly?
bullet 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 acrobatic maneuver should be avoided in a Huey.
bullet 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.
bullet Harry Reasoner once wrote this about helicopter pilots - MAC Flyer July 1977 - click right image at top of page for larger image.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet And finally, 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 SAR helicopter pilot and his crew."

And from Our Land-based Brethern

Everything I Needed to Know in Life I Learned as a Helicopter Crew in Vietnam

bulletOnce you are in the fight, it is way too late to wonder if this is a good idea.
bulletIt is a fact that helicopter tail rotors are instinctively drawn toward trees, stumps, rocks, etc. While it may be possible to ward off this natural event some of the time, it cannot, despite the best efforts of the crew, always be prevented. It's just what they do.
bulletNEVER get into a fight without more ammunition than the other guy.
bulletThe engine RPM and the rotor RPM must BOTH be kept in the GREEN. Failure to heed this commandment can affect the morale of the crew.
bulletCover your Buddy, so he can be around to cover for you.
bulletDecisions made by someone above you in the chain-of-command will seldom be in your best interest.
bulletThe terms Protective Armor and Helicopter are mutually exclusive.
bulletSometimes, being good and lucky still is not enough.
bullet"Chicken Plates" are not something you order in a restaurant.
bulletIf everything is as clear as a bell, and everything is going exactly as planned, you're about to be surprised.
bulletLoud, sudden noises in a helicopter WILL get your undivided attention.
bulletThe BSR (Bang Stare Red) Theory states that the louder the sudden bang in the helicopter, the quicker your eyes will be drawn to the gauges. The longer you stare at the gauges the less time it takes them to move from green to red.
bulletNo matter what you do, the bullet with your name on it will get you. So, too, can the ones addressed "To Whom It May Concern".
bulletIf the rear echelon troops are really happy, the front line troops probably do not have what they need.
bulletIf you are wearing body armor, they will probably miss that part.
bulletHappiness is a belt-fed weapon.
bulletHaving all your body parts intact and functioning at the end of the day beats the alternative.
bulletIf you are allergic to lead, it is best to avoid a war zone.
bulletIt is a bad thing to run out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas all at the same time.
bulletHot garrison chow is better than hot C-rations which, in turn, are better than cold C-rations, which are better than no food at all. All of these, however, are preferable to cold rice balls, even if they do have the little pieces of fish in them.
bulletEverybody's a hero ... on the ground ... in the club ... after the fourth drink.
bulletA free fire zone has nothing to do with economics.
bulletThe further you fly into the mountains, the louder the strange engine noises become.
bulletMedals are OK, but having your body and all your friends in one piece at the end of the day is better.
bulletBeing shot hurts.
bulletThus the term 'SHIT!' can also be used to denote a situation where high Pucker Factor is being encountered.
bulletThousands of Vietnam Veterans earned medals for bravery every day. A few were even awarded.
bulletRunning out of pedal, fore or aft cyclic, or collective are all bad ideas. Any combination of these can be deadly.
bulletThere is only one rule in war: When you win, you get to make up the rules.
bulletC-4 can make a dull day fun.
bulletThere is no such thing as a fair fight-only ones where you win or lose.
bulletIf you win the battle you are entitled to the spoils. If you lose you don't care.
bulletNobody cares what you did yesterday or what you are going to do tomorrow. What is important is what you are doing-NOW-to solve our problem.
bulletAlways make sure someone has a P-38. Uh, that's a can opener for those of you who aren't military.
bulletPrayer may not help . . . but it can't hurt.
bulletFlying is better than walking. Walking is better than running. Running is better than crawling. All of these, however, are better than extraction by a Med-Evac, even if it is, technically, a form of flying.
bulletIf everyone does not come home, none of the rest of us can ever fully come home either.
bulletDo not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your HONOR.
bulletA grunt is the true reason for the existence of the helicopter. Every helicopter flying in Vietnam had one real purpose: To help the grunt. It is unfortunate that many helicopters never had the opportunity to fulfill their one true mission in life, simply because someone forgot this fact.
bulletIf you have not been there and done that . . . you probably will not understand most of these.

Updated: 01/07/09