There I Was (Huey Vs Tank)

And so it came to pass one hot dusty summer afternoon at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy that a Huey crew with JP4 to burn and no particular mission to burn it on found itself flying over the countryside looking for something to strafe. I was the crew chief and left side door gunner for that joy ride and was sitting behind my trusty M60 machine gun that I affectionately called Phillis, not really but I thought it added color. It wasn’t long before we spotted a lone Jeep tearing down a dirt road leaving a trail of dust in it’s wake.  The pilot, a rouge of a Warrant officer who I’ll call Greg, because that’s his name, dropped us down over the road right behind the speeding Jeep and set me up for a nice gun run on target.  We overtook the unsuspecting vehicle on it’s right side  and I let go a nice long burst into him while swinging the gun around to keep him in my sights as we roared past.  The look on the drivers face was classic when he looked up and saw a Huey zooming past with the door gun blazing away.  Laughing Greg pulled up sharply and yelled over the intercom “Oh, we have GOT to do that again!”

With our blood lust up we roamed  over the countryside looking for new and interesting victims to strafe.  It wasn’t long before we spotted the telltale marks of  numerous tracked vehicles leaving a dirt road and heading into a large stand of trees.  Greg made a low pass over the suspected area and through the treetops we could see a company of M60 Patton tanks spread out trying to hide under their camouflage netting.

“Light em up Scary!” Greg screamed as we zoomed past.

I put a nice long burst into the general area then let up on the butterfly triggers as the pilot brought us around for another pass.  I could see the armor crews scrambling as we gleefully poured more blanks into them.  Coming off the second pass I saw black smoke belch from one of the M60s and was surprised to see it start moving quickly to the edge of the trees and into the field beyond.

“No freaking way!” I shouted over the intercom, “He wants to play!”

Greg hooted in agreement and banked the Huey away to set up the engagement.  Now I don’t remember the Army teaching us how to have a duel with a tank at Ft. Rucker but it seemed to us that flying below the treeline, always a good practice in Army aviation, and sneaking up behind him would be a good idea.

Giggling like school girls we raced across the trees and popped up right behind the tank in a perfect position for an unsportsmanlike shot in the ass. But before I could get a round off the tank’s turret spun around to face us and a white puff of smoke blasted from the gun tube.  We’d been out drawn.  Cursing Greg hauled the Huey around in a tight bank and retreated behind a hill. Two more times we tried to sneak up on what we thought would be easy meat and two more times that dammed tank blasted out of the sky, simulatedly, (is that a word?), of course.

Admitting defeat we flew over the tank one last time low and slow and I saluted the tank commander standing up in his cupola as we passed.  Maybe using attack helicopters and hellfire missiles when dealing with tanks isn’t such a bad idea after all.


Time Machine

Ask any professional pilot what is the biggest negative about his, or her, chosen line of work and more often than not the answer will be the time spent away from friends and family.  Long hours that lead into days spent crammed into cockpits, riding airport shuttles and stealing hotel shampoo means missing a lot of birthday parties and baseball games.  But every once in a while being a pilot and owning an airplane comes in handy, like today.  Number one son has his first sophomore football game this afternoon that I would dearly love to attend.  The only problem is that I have to fly and jump out of a few airplanes in the morning and early afternoon and the game is a day killing three hour drive from the dropzone.  Enter the my go fast machine, Black Betty the Queen Air.  I can jump until 2:30, drive to my hanger, fly the thirty minutes it takes to get to the airport in the opposing team’s town, borrow the crew car, and get to the stadium in time for kick off.   And my wife told me that my plane was impractical.

UPDATE:   Menomonie (the good guys) 41  Merrill 28.  Number one son played most of the game and scored a two point conversion on a nice fake extra point passing play.  On a slightly less joyous note, my wife and I left the restaurant we went with her sister and brother in law after the game at the same time.  I stopped by the stadium to check on how the varsity was doing then went right to the airport.  After a quick fuel up, which is nothing but what with four fuel tanks and all that’s involved, I took off into the setting sun.  I powered the mighty Queen Air down to her max range power setting, plodding along smug in my knowledge that I was king of the world rocketing along at a modest but sort of fuel efficient 140 knots.  I landed, taxied up to the hanger, and was greeted to the beautiful sight of the airport manager sitting on the tug ready to push me in like it was some kind of NASCAR event.  Five minutes later I pulled into my driveway and walked into the house whistling a happy tune only to be greeted by my wife who asked me “what took you long?”…..Meh.

Ferry Flight Pic of The Day

Stu and a Brazilian Air Force weatherman trying to plot a course to keep us out of an area of volcanic ash that was blocking our path.  We finally called the new owner of the Piper Navajo we were ferrying to ask for his advise.  He told us that the ash wasn’t too bad and gave us permission to fly right through it.  I think he was just anxious to get his new plane despite the risk to his engines.

Super Girl

Except for the Otter going down with a bad starter/generator on the busiest and nicest day of the summer so far, GRRRRR! I had a great weekend.  What made it great was getting my daughter her last two student jumps and taking her on a four way jump with two of my friends.  She is such a natural in the air that she was done with her training in just three jumps where it normally takes at least seven.  Ok I admit that I had her on my own special training program but she earned her solo status by being simply great in the air.  That girl can really move.

Anti Gravity Check

As a big science fiction fan it was always my dream to go into space.  Of course I didn’t really want to do the hard work in school that would make my dream a reality so I had to settle for being a pilot and skydiver instead.  In retrospect I think I ended up with a pretty good deal.

That’s My Co-Pilot

My daughter came out to the drop zone yesterday to get a few jumps in but decided that it would be more fun to do a bit of flying with dear old dad.  She figured that because she will be flying with me on a few ferry trips across the pond this fall she might as well get in a little stick, (yoke) time on something bigger than a Cessna 172.  She climbed into the right seat of the big Twin Otter like she flew it every day and aside from the time she spent taking pictures of the beautiful sunset was on the controls for everything except the landing, with jumpers landing all over the runway I figured that it would be best for me to be on the controls then.  Today she will be doing three or four jumps and hopefully getting off student status.  I guess we’ve got another airhead in the family.