Flying Tough with Helicopters
September 10, 2012
One of my favorite television shows as a child was “The Whirlybirds.” The Bell 47 helicopter was featured in the program as were the pilots, Chuck Martin and P.T. Moore.
In the late 1980′s, I won a Baton Rouge radio station’s trivia contest by being able to name the pilots.
Another Bell helicopter became iconic of another significant event in my life. The conflict in Viet Nam was my motivation to study, stay in school, and keep my college deferment in the early 70′s. Remember the famous scene from Apocalypse Now with the helicopters coming in from the horizon with the sunrise behind them? It was an important introduction to the music of Wagner for many — including myself.
I was born in the waning years of the “Baby Boom.” The late fifties were my formative years and I was a teenager during the turbulent sixties. All the while, I was (and still am) fascinated with a cumbersome airborne vehicle that doesn’t glide.
On a vacation trip the the nation’s capitol, we stayed overnight in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was the early nineties then and I had three sons. My middle son, Joey, and I got to ride in a Bell 47 for an airborne tour of the area including Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. It’s the only time I’ve ever been in a helicopter. It was great!
Those who know me best won’t be surprised at all to discover that when I sat down to write my first novel, The Tourist Killer, a helicopter was included and would play an important role. Only now, it would be the Bell Huey UH-1, the vehicle that became synonymous with America’s involvement in Southeast Asia.
It was the workhorse.
Equines were out.
A helicopter carried the cavalry.
It carried the wounded and the dead.
It carried the survivors and countless memories.
It carried our men to safety.
Pointe and Gregg looked at the map, then checked the GPS and came up with a plan.
“Listen up Fan. I’m giving Martin the new rendezvous. Meet us at the junction of 28 and Sweetwater road. There should be plenty of clear space to set down right at the intersection. If not, you let us know where to meet you.”
Martin replied with a quick, clear, military sounding, “Roger.”
Gregg turned to Pointe who appeared drained. [Pointe had been shot in the shoulder.] His face was beginning to pale a bit, “Martin’s bird got enough room?”
Pointe perked up, smiled and showed some enthusiasm with his reply, “You’ll love this! I hope I’m awake to see it.”
Pointe turned to Wilson and asked, “Did you spike that IV with something to knock me out? I’m starting to fade.”
Wilson smiled and said, “Why do think you’re still feeling no pain?”
Pointe leaned his head back on the head rest and spoke up toward the ceiling, “That helicopter is Martin’s hobby. He bought an Army Huey UH-1. Viet Nam era. Tons of his own money and lots of time restoring it. Keeps it in top flying shape. Not many left anymore and none in this good a shape. Every time he shows up in it, I expect to hear Wagner. He may even be in uniform. You ever heard of the CAF?”
Gregg noticed that Pointe slurred the initials of the Confederate Air Force as his head turned a bit to the side then his neck muscles relaxed. He was out. Gregg looked at Wilson. The EMT gave him a thumb’s up and said, “He’s stable. When he wakes up, he should be in Knoxville. With our connections, he’ll get the best care available and never see the inside of a hospital.”