Monday, December 30, 2013

Close Formation: In Which Vulture 17 Reads a Huey Instrument Panel From Another Helicopter


By Vulture 17

In Viet Nam my main missions were Combat Assaults where we usually flew in five ship formations. Flights were in different configurations such as V, staggered right or left, trail, and a few others. With over 1,000 hours of combat flight time logged (and a lot more that somehow didn't get logged), we all got pretty good at formation flying to the point where we could overlap the other ships' rotor blades and at night, read the instrument panel of the other ship. It got to be second nature.

At Ft. Belvoir, I was the Peter Pilot* again. One day, we were in a two ship formation, and the A/C [aircraft commander] had us off to the right rear at about four-five rotor blade lengths out. That was the measurement we used to fly off of each other. The usual formation distance was two rotor blade lengths out.

This guy? A showoff? Hmmmm...
The A/C Asked me if I would like to give it a try.  He didn't know me that well.... 

I said "Sure!!!"  

I'm pretty sure I had a devilish grin on my face as I took the controls.  

I then proceeded to move into the 'correct' position in one smooth, sure motion.

The A/C's knuckles turned white from gripping the edge of the seat and his face turned a little pale with the look of terror on it as the two ships closed up !!  

I took up position two rotor blade lengths out and then, with more than a little glee in my voice, told him I had done it a few times before.

The poor guy relaxed a bit as we settled into the new position and I got a good chuckle for myself. A lot of pilots never got to fly formation or combat in Viet Nam.  

Did I mention I'm a bit of a show off...

* SKK here: In other words, Vulture 17 was the FNG. 


14 comments:

Fishmugger said...

Nice to know the Army had Warrants that could read. The fast movers had people to read for them.

Vulture 17 said...

At night and in weather it was safer to be in close to the other ship

Grumpy said...

"Vulture 17", are we talking about a "laundry issue", here?

Vulture 17 said...

No Laundry issue, "Commando" works well in the Jungle ! , ;-)

Susan Katz Keating said...

Wait - I thought you said you were the Aircraft Commander.... in Viet Nam!

Quartermaster said...

I'd say you were delighted by the white knuckles. Could it be you had stumbled on an AC that had never been to the Republic?

Grumpy said...

QM, I would dare say his knuckles were not the only things, that was tense. There was most probably some "white tension" in an appropriate sphincter muscle.

Quartermaster said...

I'm betting the Vulture was enjoying himself immensely. Remember the landing contest.

Susan Katz Keating said...

I have met the Vulture in person, and I can attest that he has a maniacal laugh. I have a feeling he's had it for a while...

Evan Lazarou said...

These Boys Were Needed!

Vulture 17 said...

Quartermaster; We all learned to fly formation in flight school. A lot of the guys that flew in Nam never had to fly formation on a regular basis, if at all. In the 162nd Assault Helicopter Co, it was our main job.
To SKK, I guess an "ER" or an "O" can make a big difference !!!
To Evan, thank you !

Vulture 17 said...

Grumpy; It got to be a common thing flying in formation , like driving in Boston Rush Hour Traffic !

Susan Katz Keating said...

But can you go -0 while an -ER? This is for research purposes only, of course.

Grumpy said...

Vulture 17, I have no doubts about your abilities in flying. I also enjoy your ability to communicate that same type of maniacal laughter in writing. This is the only way to keep what little bit of sanity that you have in your mind. Believe me, it is the best medicine that you can have and you don't need a prescription.

Thank you, "Write on!"

Have a Happy New Year, 2014!