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training and development was no easy task Towards the end of World War II the be advanced enough to be able to make
as helicopters were in their infancy. The British created their own helicopter train- any real contribution before World War
first machines were scarce, very under- ing unit at the Coast Guard Air Station II ended. The sixth and final class of he-
powered, unreliable and not well under- and by the end of 1944 they had moved licopter pilots graduated in February of
stood. Commander Erickson’s enthusiasm all helicopter training back to England. 1945 and the school closed for good
for the helicopter isolated him from many Around this same time the Navy stopped (Beard, B., 1996). In the short time that
of his colleagues and superiors who be- sending students to helicopter training. It the school was open Commander Erick-
lieved that seaplanes were the way of the was in need of fixed wing pilots and was son and his men trained 102 helicopter pi-
future. They were committed to getting convinced that the helicopter would not Continued on page 18
rid of the helicopter as quickly as possi-
ble. Many senior officers in the Navy
were equally unenthusiastic, often delay-
ing Commander Erickson’s requests and
trying to take away the control that he had
of the helicopter development program.
Although many things lined up against
Commander Erickson and the future of
the helicopter, occasionally luck was on
their side. One such instance occurred on
January 3, 1944, when the Navy destroyer
USS Turner suffered two internal explo-
sions and sunk while anchored off the
coast of Sandy Hook, NJ. Luckily there
was a hospital in Sandy Hook were many
of the wounded were taken but it quickly
exhausted its supply of plasma treating the
wounded sailors. There was a storm
around the New York City area with
snow, sleet and 25 knot winds which ham-
pered all fixed wing efforts to re-supply
the hospital and driving plasma there from
the nearest source would have taken sev-
eral hours. Commander Erickson was
asked if it would be possible to fly plasma
over to Sandy Hook from downtown New
York City (only a short distance by air but
a several hour trip by boat or car). Com-
mander Erickson realized the importance
of this opportunity not only to help the in-
jured sailors but also to showcase the he-
licopter’s abilities. He took off from the
Coast Guard Air Station in Brooklyn with
his copilot, Ensign Walter Bolton (Beard,
B., 1996). They flew at almost ship level
to avoid the clouds and made an ex-
tremely difficult confined area landing at
the Battery on the south end of Manhat-
tan. Ensign Bolton departed the aircraft
to make room for the plasma. Comman-
der Erickson had to back out of the land-
ing zone before rotating the nose around
and continuing on at low altitude to Sandy
Hook single pilot. This event marked the
first helicopter rescue mission and re-
ceived significant attention in the media
helping to bolster the fledgling helicopter
and to reverse its image of being an im-
practical machine.
HELI-EXPO BOOTH #1628 • January 2010 17
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