A COLLECTION OF AVIATION HUMOR THAT RELATES TO THE 281ST AHC
John "Jack" Mayhew
Commander, 281st AHC
EVERYTHING I EVER NEEDED TO KNOW IN LIFE I LEARNED AS A HELICOPTER CREWMAN IN VIETNAM.
- Once you are in the fight, it is way too late to wonder if this is a good idea.
- It is a fact that helicopter tail rotors are instinctively drawn toward trees, stumps, rocks, etc. While it may be possible to ward off this natural event some of the time, it cannot, despite the best efforts of the crew, always be prevented. It's just what they do.
- NEVER get into a fight without more ammunition than the other guy.
- The engine RPM and the rotor RPM must BOTH be kept in the GREEN. Failure to heed this commandment can affect the morale of the crew.
- Cover your Buddy, so he can be around to cover for you.
- Decisions made by someone above you in the chain-of-command will seldom be in your best interest.
- The terms Protective Armor and Helicopter are mutually exclusive.
- Sometimes, being good and lucky still is not enough.
- "Chicken Plates" are not something you order in a restaurant.
- If everything is as clear as a bell, and everything is going exactly as planned, you're about to be surprised.
- Loud, sudden noises in a helicopter WILL get your undivided attention.
- The BSR (Bang Stare Red) Theory states that the louder the sudden bang in the helicopter, the quicker your eyes will be drawn to the gauges. The longer you stare at the gauges the less time it takes them to move from green to red.
- No matter what you do, the bullet with your name on it will get you.
So, too, can the ones addressed "To Whom It May Concern".
- If the rear echelon troops are really happy, the front line troops probably do not have what they need.
- If you are wearing body armor, they will probably miss that part.
- Happiness is a belt-fed weapon.
- Having all your body parts intact and functioning at the end of the day beats the alternative.
- If you are allergic to lead, it is best to avoid a war zone.
- It is a bad thing to run out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas all at the same time.
- Hot garrison chow is better than hot C-rations which, in turn, are better than cold C-rations, which are better than no food at all. All of these, however, are preferable to cold rice balls, even if they do have the little pieces of fish in them.
- Everybody's a hero ... on the ground ... in the club ... after the fourth drink.
- A free fire zone has nothing to do with economics.
- The further you fly into the mountains, the louder the strange engine noises become.
- Medals are OK, but having your body and all your friends in one piece at the end of the day is better.
- Being shot hurts.
- "Pucker Factor" is the formal name of the equation that states the more hairy the situation is, the more of the seat cushion will be sucked up your asshole. It can be expressed in its mathematical formula of S (suction)+ H (height) above ground) + I (interest in staying alive) + T (# of tracers coming your way) - Thus the term 'SHIT!' can also be used to denote a situation where high Pucker Factor is being encountered.
- Thousands of Vietnam Veterans earned medals for bravery every day. A few were even awarded.
- Running out of pedal, fore or aft cyclic, or collective are all bad ideas. Any combination of these can be deadly.
- There is only one rule in war: When you win, you get to make up the rules.
- C-4 can make a dull day fun.
- There is no such thing as a fair fight; only ones where you win or lose.
- If you win the battle you are entitled to the spoils. If you lose you don't care.
- Nobody cares what you did yesterday or what you are going to do tomorrow. What is important is what you are doing NOW to solve our problem.
- Always make sure someone has a P-38. (Uh, that's a can opener for those of you who aren't military.)
- A grunt is the true reason for the existence of the helicopter. Every helicopter flying in Vietnam had one real purpose: To help the grunt. It is unfortunate that many helicopters never had the opportunity to fulfill their one true mission in life, simply because someone forgot this fact.
- Prayer may not help . . . but it can't hurt.
- Flying is better than walking. Walking is better than running. Running is better than crawling. All of these, however, are better than extraction by a MedEvac, even if it is, technically, a form of flying.
- If everyone does not come home, none of the rest of us can ever fully come home either.
- Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your HONOR.
HOW TO OPERATE A HELICOPTER MECHANIC
William C. Dykes
A long, long time ago, back in the days of iron men and wooden rotor blades, a ritual began. It takes place when a helicopter pilot approaches a mechanic to report some difficulty with his aircraft. All mechanics seem to be aware of it, which leads to the conclusion that it's included somewhere in their training, and most are diligent in practicing it.
New pilots are largely ignorant of the ritual because it's neither included in their training, nor handed down to them by older drivers. older drivers feel that the pain of learning everything the hard way was so exquisite, that they shouldn't deny anyone the pleasure.
There are pilots who refuse to recognize it as a serious professional amenity, no matter how many times they perform it, and are driven to distraction by it. Some take it personally. They get red in the face, fume and boil, and do foolish dances. Some try to take it as a joke, but it's always dead serious. Most pilots find they can't change it, and so accept it and try to practice it with some grace.
The ritual is accomplished before any work is actually done on the aircraft. It has four parts, and goes something like this:
After the ritual has been played through in it's entirety, serious discussion begins, and the problem is usually solved forthwith.
- 1. The pilot reports the problem. The mechanic says, "There's nothing wrong with it."
- 2. The pilot repeats the complaint. The mechanic replies, "It's the gauge."
- 3. The pilot persists, plaintively. The mechanic maintains, "They're all like that."
- 4. The pilot, heatedly now, explains the problem carefully, enunciating carefully.
The mechanic states, "I can't fix it."
Like most rituals, this one has it's roots in antiquity and a basis in experience and common sense. It started back when mechanics first learned to operate pilots, and still serves a number of purposes. It's most important function is that it is a good basic diagnostic technique. Causing the pilot to explain the symptoms of the problem several times in increasing detail not only saves troubleshooting time, but gives the mechanic insight into the pilot's knowledge of how the machine works, and his state of mind.
Every mechanic knows that if the last flight was performed at night or in bad weather, some of the problems reported are imagined, some exaggerated, and some are real. Likewise, a personal problem, especially romantic or financial, but including simple fatigue, affects a pilot's perception of every little rattle and thump. There are also chronic whiners and complainers to be weeded out and dealt with. While performing the ritual, an unscrupulous mechanic can find out if the pilot can be easily intimidated. If the driver has an obvious personality disorder like prejudices, pet peeves, tender spots, or other manias, they will stick out like handles, with which he can be steered around.
There is a proper way to operate a mechanic as well. Don't confuse "operating" a mechanic with "putting one in his place." The worst and most often repeated mistake is to try to establish an "I'm the pilot and you're just the mechanic" hierarchy. Although a lot of mechanics can and do fly recreationally, they don't give a damn about doing it for a living. Their satisfaction comes from working on complex and expensive machinery. As a pilot, you are neither feared nor envied, but merely tolerated, for until they actually train monkeys to fly those things, he needs a pilot to put the parts in motion so he can tell if everything is working properly.
The driver who tries to put a mechanic in his "place" is headed for a fall. Sooner or later, he'll try to crank with the blade tied down. After he has snatched the tailboom around to the cabin door and completely burnt out the engine, he'll see the mechanic there sporting a funny little smirk. Helicopter mechanics are indifferent to attempts at discipline or regimentation other than the discipline of their craft. It's accepted that a good mechanic's personality should contain unpredictable mixtures of irascibility and nonchalance, and should exhibit at least some bizarre behavior.
As you can see, operating a helicopter mechanic is simple, but it is not easy. What it boils down to is that if a pilot performs his pilot rituals religiously in no time at all he will find the mechanic operating smoothly. (I have not attempted to explain how to make friends with a mechanic, for that is not known.)
1. Clean an aircraft. Get out a hose or bucket, a broom, and some rags, and at some strange time of day, like early morning, or when you would normally take your afternoon, and start cleaning that bird from top to bottom, inside and out. This is guaranteed to knock even the sourest old wrench off balance. He'll be suspicious, but he'll be attracted to this strange behavior like a passing motorist to a roadside accident. He may even join in to make sure you don't break anything. Before you know it, you'll be talking to each other about the aircraft while you're getting a more intimate knowledge of it. Maybe while you're mucking out the pilot's station, you'll see how rude it is to leave coffee cups, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and other trash behind to be cleaned up.
2. Do a thorough preflight. Most mechanics are willing to admit to themselves that they might make a mistake, and since a lot of his work must be done at night or in a hurry, a good one likes to have his work checked. Of course he'd rather have another mechanic do the checking, but a driver is better than nothing. Although they cultivate a deadpan, don't-give-a-damn attitude, mechanics have nightmares about forgetting to torque a nut or leaving tools in inlets and drive shaft tunnels. A mechanic will let little gigs slide on a machine that is never pre-flighted, not because they won't be noticed, but because he figures the driver will overlook something big someday, and the whole thing will end up in a smoking pile of rubble anyway.
3. Don't abuse the machinery. Mechanics see drivers come and go, so you won't impress one in a thousand with what you can make the aircraft do. They all know she'll lift more than max gross, and will do a hammerhead with half roll. While the driver is confident that the blades and engine and massive frame members will take it, the mechanic knows that it's the seals and bearings and rivets deep in the guts of the machine that fail from abuse. In a driver, mechanics aren't looking for fancy expensive clothes, flashy girlfriends, tricky maneuvers, and lots of juicy stories about Viet Nam. They're looking for one who'll fly the thing so that all the components make their full service life. They also know that high maintenance costs are a good excuse to keep salaries low.
4. Do a post-flight inspection. Nothing feels more deliciously dashing than to end the day by stepping down from the bird and walking off into the sunset while the blade slowly turns down. It's the stuff that beer commercials are made of. The trouble is, it leaves the pilot ignorant of how the aircraft has fared after a hard days work, and leaves the wrench doing a slow burn. The mechanic is an engineer, not a groom, and needs some fresh, first hand information on the aircraft's performance if he is to have it ready to go the next day. A little end-of-the-day conference also gives you one more chance to get him in the short ribs. Tell him the thing flew good. It's been known to make them faint dead away.
Helicopter pilots and mechanics have a strange relationship. It's a symbiotic partnership because one's job depends on the other, but it's an adversary situation too, since one's job is to provide the helicopter with loving care, and the other's is to provide wear and tear.
Pilots will probably always regard mechanics as lazy, lecherous, intemperate swine who couldn't make it through flight school, and mechanics will always be convinced that pilots are petulant children with pathological ego problems, a big watch, and a little whatchamacallit. Both points of view are viciously slanderous, of course, and only partly true.
- If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger, if you pull the stick back they get smaller. (Unless you keep pulling the stick back then they get bigger again.)
- Flying is not dangerous; crashing is dangerous.
- It's better to be down here wishing you were up there, than up there wishing you were down here.
- The propeller is just a big fan in the front of the plane to keep the pilot cool. Want proof? Make it stop; then watch the pilot break out into a sweat.
- It's best to keep the pointed end going forward as much as possible.
- The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.
- Every one already knows the definition of a 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. But very few know the definition of a 'great landing.' It's one after which you can use the airplane another time.
- The probability of survival is equal to the angle of arrival.
- Those who hoot with the owls by night should not fly with the eagles by day.
- A helicopter is a collection of rotating parts going round and round and reciprocating parts going up and down all of them trying to become random in motion.
- Helicopters can't really fly - they're just so ugly that the earth immediately repels them.
- There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
- The only thing worse than a captain who never flew as copilot is a copilot who once was a captain.
- It's easy to make a small fortune in aviation. You start with a large fortune.
- Try to keep the number of your landings equal to the number of your takeoffs.
- You cannot propel yourself forward by patting yourself on the back.
- Gravity never loses. The best you can hope for is a draw.