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Chief Coker’s Series of Unfortunate Events

The worst flying experience of Chief Coker’s life was the flight back from the Lynx to the Serpent that night with the MH-47 Chinook in tow. Many unfortunate things in the Universe united that night to provide for the most harrowing ride of Team Gravy’s life. It wasn’t so much as the “this” or the “that” as it was the “everything!” It was a wretched suite of afflictions, any one of which would have been a daunting challenge by itself.

The men were dog-tired. Flight regulations dictate that pilots MUST have crew rest time that is consistent with their number of flight hours. Chief spent his crew rest fighting cobras, blowing up pictures of Saddam, and enjoying his perch on pipe and plank instead of sleeping.

The pilots were suffering from sinus headaches, a thing that just screws with everything associated with the head, causing, among other things, the ears to not work well, which in turn causes adversity to balance. The Valsalva maneuver stops functioning in such a situation, which leads to unequal pressure between the sinuses and the ambient environment, leading to more pain and misorientation during altitude changes. The only (nearly) empty consolation was to see the Ranger medic at Serpent Base for an issue of what amounted a voodoo potion from the eye of a newt and a spoonful of Hasidol.

Incideously crappy flight conditions prevailed: from overcast skies blocking causing bad visibility to strong winds that raised fugitive dust, which further obscured vision and choked engine systems. Additionally, cross and tailwinds blew, which are especially unforgiving to the smallest piloted helicopter in the military’s inventory.

Spatial disorientation can be overcome on the ground with the senses complimenting and even taking over for one another to provide input to the brain for balance and orientation. In the air now… what if there is no light, no visual horizon or otherwise reference point to tell you that you are leaning to one side or the other, or even if you are upside down? The fluid in our ears is what gives us our sense of balance. Chief had no normal function of inner ear fluids, so he was in debt.

The grim scape of the decommissioned airfield support corollaries at Objective Serpent.

Visual Flight Rules Only

All that the helo drivers had for orientation was an altimeter, compass, and airspeed indicator. Well, that’s enough, right? Get on out there and get you some flying, Chief. Pop that snot bubble and move out — wing and a prayer, you big fat crybaby! Fact: MH/AH-6 airframes are woefully ill-equipped for IFR (flying by instruments only) flight; that is, they are VFR (flying by visual reference) only — only VFR is spoken here. That means that if you can’t see then you have no business flying one of those birds. The next time you are in one of those choppers feel all around the inside of the cockpit — you won’t feel any Braille!