After the Christmas and New Year holidays of 1970/71 the war as I had known it began to change. Units began to stand down. The 4th Inf. Div. was retreating east toward Qui Nhon. We were turning H Models over to the VNAF and B Models over to the Navy King Bees. Some units were going home. In an Aviation unit, if you had more than six months left when your unit went home you were reassigned to another unit that was staying. The 129th got three such unlucky souls while I was there
I was the unit SIP at this time and had to give these guys their check rides. All three were second tour aviators having flown either slicks or guns first tour. On this tour two had been flying Beavers for the 8th Aviation Company in support Special Forces and the third had been a Mohawk Pilot fling Red Haze missions over Uncle Hos trail out of Tuy Hoa. These guys were pros, they were good and I looked up to them as father figures. One was even old enough to be my father. I was all of 22 at the time.
For most stage field check rides I took aircraft that had just come from maintenance and killed two birds with one stone so to speak, the check ride and the test flight. With these three it was no different. The wind was out of the west so I elected to go to Tuy Hoa for the use of their runway.
After leaving our valley via the southeast pass I climbed to 5,000 ft. I had one of the old Newbees in the right seat and the other two in the rear. As I leveled off and started to enjoy the flight down the coast feet wet these guys started to piss and moan about being back in helicopters again. One of them even asked why I was flying so high.
Well, trying to sound a professional as I thought possible, I started the standard MOI speech about small arms fire range and ended with something like it couldnít be all that bad. They had in fact lived through their first tours flying choppers.
When I could think of no more, of what I thought was intelligent to say, these guys just stared in disbelief at me for what seemed like an eternity. Then as if they had practiced this a thousand times, starting with the right seat, said Jim, look at it this way,..45,000 moving parts.then the back seat, right..all moving in the opposite direction.then back seat, left..all made by the lowest bidder!
The rest of the flight to Tuy Hoa and the return trip was made at 50ft! These guys were pros.
Copyright © 2001 by Jim Masencup, All Rights Reserved