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By Randy Mains LISTEN AND LEARN


IN AVIATION, WE LISTEN AND WE HOPEFULLY LEARN. WHEN I ARRIVED IN VIETNAM, I LISTENED INTENTLY TO THE OLD GUYS TO TRY AND GAIN WISDOM THAT WOULD HOPEFULLY KEEP ME ALIVE. ONE BIT OF ADVICE DID SAVE MY LIFE AFTER DROPPING OFF FOUR RECON TEAM MEMBERS IN AN LZ THAT WAS A 100-FOOT HOVER HOLE IN THE JUNGLE.


After I took off and reached altitude, they became pinned down,   them out. So we went back in after them.


  the faceless enemy. I could hear bullets occasionally hitting the ship as I watched the engine instruments with my hands vice- tight on the controls.


First one, then a second man scampered aboard my chopper.   an exposed tree root and nearly fell.


           unfolded around us in slow motion, surreal, confused. Rockets  WHUMP! WHUMP! The rockets exploded in pairs followed by falling debris.


The last two men threw themselves on board. “Get the hell out  pitch lever. The helicopter rose slowly through the smoke, stench and heat.


                        dropped their remaining sortie of Napalm. The two simultaneous


8 Mar/Apr 2018


explosions that followed caused a deafening explosion of heat and light that shook the helicopter as it slowly made its ascent to clear the tall trees to our front. I could tell the aircraft was   Tri prior to the mission and had topped up. The approach into the LZ takes less power than a vertical takeoff out of the same  power problems taking off, but with the added weight, now she was severely limited.


   glowing red hot.


 struggled for altitude. The turbine engine strained and whined trying to develop enough shaft horsepower to pull the weight           the power instruments were well into their red lines. The aircraft  one more foot.


 I thought in horror,   


NOT ENOUGH POWER


         exploded, showering plastic splinters everywhere. He tucked his   


I instinctively pulled up collective. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!  back down into the holocaust below. I fought for control, fought


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