Here is a new story about flying in Viet Nam.
It was the beginning of the rainy season in III Corps. I had been
flying UH-1Dog model helicopters from the time I climbed off the courier
Ninh. I had flown lots of formation and single ship
re-supply. I had even found my niche in flying medevac missions at
night. There was something about the desperate need of the men on
the ground and the skill required getting in to get them that made my
blood run hot.
I had a few close encounters with Mr. Vertigo flying night medevac
missions. In one of them when I came out of a deep hover hole and right
into a cloud of smoke that freaked me out for a few seconds when it went
zero, zero, but I held what I had and flew out of it.
Several of our pilots had instrument ratings and I started bugging them
to teach me more about it. Being the unit IP I could make a very
persuasive argument for getting lessons from the older guys.
One of the instrument-qualified guys in my unit was Jim Bennett; (I
spent the evening with him at the VHPA in Nashville). Jim was famous for
saying "anyone can fly a full panel instrument approach, but it
takes skill and balls to fly partial panel in a fucking
So to make a long story short, if I wanted instrument instruction, it
was partial panel, needle, ball, airspeed. With Jim Bennett on my
ass like a pit bull, I almost got comfortable with making most standard
maneuvers partial panel. When I had a chance to do some instrument work
non-emergency I would always try my skills at partial panel descents and
I was flying along at 1500 feet AGL late in the afternoon coming up from
Saigon. It was full-on monsoon and they were firing artillery on both
sides of the highway so the only safe route was on positive radar
guidance. I called Paris Radar and told them where I wanted to go they
of course ask if I needed VFR and I told them negative and they
gave me a higher altitude and I was solidly in the clouds on
It started to get lumpy and I ask for a lower altitude, as I was tired
of fighting the aircraft in the turbulence. My radar operator told me
there was a squall line and at 10,000 feet there was a break to get
through. 10,000 feet in a fucking helicopter what did this asshole think
I was flying an F fucking 4 or what?
I was thinking about going under the storm low level, something I had
done many times when the lightning started flashing all around us in the
clouds and then we got hit several times with the flash and the noise
coming simultaneously drowning out the noise of he helicopter.
The first the wipers then the lights went out, the radios went out, the
instruments started to unwind I had no electrical power at all. Not even
an intercom to talk to the crew.
I started to make my decent through the turbulence partial panel.
I screamed at my peter pilot to stick his head out the window and when
it started to turn green to yell as loud as he could. My peter pilot
motioned to the crew and the crew chief and gunner stuck their heads out
the door looking for the color to change.
Some of the trees up there were three hundred feet so I slowed my decent
and airspeed at about five hundred feet and my crew all yelled GREEN at
the same moment. Just where I knew it would be, was the clear air
the storm and I low leveled back to Tay Ninh in the heavy rain.
Sneaking in low level with no radio I took the electrocuted D model
right to maintenance.
My knees were still shaking when I made it to the mess hall. There
sitting at the back was Jim Bennett making small talk with the rest of
first platoon. I sat down beside him and thanked him for saving my
life, and promised to not swear at him next instrument lesson.
Jim looked at me, he smiled, and in his deep Southern Drawl said
"Just think, I told everyone if you ever had to fly instruments you
would be our next fatality. And now you are making me out to be a
©1997 Wayne R. "Crash"
187th AHC 67-8