“The helicopter is a damnable affair; fairly fully designed to shake itself apart.” – Unnamed mechanical engineer

I have been involved in a heaping helping of helicopter mishaps. By God’s grace, none that I was directly involved in produced fatalities. I mean to shed no disparity toward the venerable flying machines; the mishaps were certainly not the fault of the helicopters themselves; the fault lay rather with the men who flew them and the performance extremes to which they were pushed: make it go faster, turn sharper, land harder, carry more. Push them until they broke; we did. That is how you learn the true worth of a machine. The only way to find the edge is by going over it.

Helicopters fascinated me as early as in my minor years watching the helo cavalry scream over Vietnamese hamlets in the movie Apocalypse Now. It was pretty cool in the movie, but when it got right down to getting on the actual helos… I was only too happy to continue to worship them from the movie screen and not be in the movie.

Going Full Frontal

All my experience with helos while in the Green Berets was only transportation between points. Mind you, some of those points were tactical insertions and pickups, but never were any of them the full-caliber ass-whipping frontal assaults like I did in Delta, where men are hammering away at targets on the ground with assault rifles as they approach, mini-guns red-roping buildings and Hydra rockets auguring in not far behind.