Noilly Prattle: Persian Odyssey: Part XVI - Hueys

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Persian Odyssey: Part XVI - Hueys

typical Huey used to train cadets
pilot training
You simply haven't lived until you've gone up into the wild (and I mean wild) blue yonder as an in-flight tutor  in the back seat of a Huey with a “Texas cowboy” instructor pilot who may or may not think the student pilot is “stupid” (but probably does) and where both come from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Instead of returning to classroom duties, I requested this in-flight tutor and problem solver assignment because 1) I wanted a change, 2) I had never flown in a helicopter and 3) I thought it would be fun and exciting. The job, plain and simple, was to iron out communication problems in mid flight between these two, on both of whom all our lives depended. And, to be completely honest, I doubt if the Texas cowboys had much confidence in either the student pilots or me. But to give the instructor pilots their due, they were very competent pilots and teachers. The fact that I'm alive today and writing about it is testament to their skill. 

what "rock-a-bye-baby" looks like if you blow it

Helicopter pilot training isn't simply a matter of taking off, cruising and landing. What else, you may ask? Emergency procedures is what else. Remember, Hueys, after all, are not passenger aircraft, they are combat machines—and THAT can lead to any number and type of “emergencies”. One of these is what I came to call, evocatively enough, “rock-a-bye-baby”. Rock-a-bye-baby perhaps shouldn't be classified as an emergency procedure, more like breaking a horse. It may even have been an inside joke, for all I know, on the part of the Texas cowboys to scare the flight suit off both the student and the poor schlep whose gone and gotten him or herself sitting in the back seat. These right stuff he-man types probably thought of English instructors of either sex as she-men.

left/right rocking maneuver
In the rock-a-bye-baby maneuver, with the Huey hovering a mere meter or so above the ground the pilot begins to rock the aircraft back and forth (side to side and front and back) until the rotor blades and nose and tail practically touch the ground. One slight miscalculation and we'd all have been cooked in a great ball of fire. Hearty guffaws and high fives all around and we're off into the lemon yellow blue with the rest of the training squadron. 

medium high flight

Riding in a helicopter and flying over the desert is an experience not to be missed. High Flight, a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr,* describes the feeling best: 

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

*Unfortunately, Magee felt the fist of God a short while later and was killed in a mid-air collision in England at 19-years of age.

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

why do they do 'rock-a-by baby'?

Noilly Prattle said...

Frankly, I think the cowboys just thought it was great fun scaring the shit out of the neophytes.