Bits 'N' Pieces

This section contains numerous "bits and pieces" of Air Force helicopter history. When the originator of the entry is not able to state with certainty the entry is fact....whether by CRS, hearsay, second hand or other reasons, the entry will be annotated as UNCONFIRMED.

These "bits and pieces" are normally extracted from various e-mails and are considered to be an important part of Air Force helicopter history requiring documentation and preservation by USAF ROTORHEADS.

If you would like to comment or add to an existing entry or contribute a new "Bits & Pieces" entry, please contact us.

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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History

H-1 DYNAMIC SWEEP ALIGNMENT (Bill Lyster)

Thu 6 Feb 2009
I learned quite a lot doing this project. I also fixed quite a few H-1 beat problems that had stumped the maintenance troubleshooting crews at Hill, on the UH-1F, H-1 Helicopter Sections. I had the HH-1H section where I perfected this procedure flying Functional Check Flights. This technique works very well and solves the problem associated with the blades going out of track as the power is changed as in a climb, or heavy loads, versus the lighter (descending) or less weight loads on the helicopter main rotor system. In flight this can be measured with the in-flight tracking system invented by Chadwick Helmuth of Monrovia, California. I wrote the in-flight tracking procedure at Edwards AFB, and visited the plant in Monrovia while there doing the testing and writing of the Tech Data. Met the chief engineer, Mr. Helmuth and Mr. Chadwick visited Hill several times during my assignment there.

The H-21 and I think even the H-19 had weights that could be moved from the leading edge to the trailing edge to make a blade climb more for example. The H-1 did not have any lead lag adjustment procedure for in-flight corrections as these articulated blades had. The H-19 caps were riveted on and the adjustment for these was not a field adjustment. The H-21 had this explained in the T.O. pretty well, and this experience gave me the idea of lead lag malfunctions for the H-1.

Lyster certificate

HH-53 AT 21O KTS (Stan Nelson)

Sun 30 Nov 2008
The mission I was on was a special orbit for a major air strike on the route 7 structure between Bab Ban, Laos and the Fishes mouth (Bartholemy Pass) on the border of North Vietnam. The major air strikes, which took approximately two and a half hours was pounding the area with 500 and 750 lb daisy cutters.. We were orbiting at 6500 ft just below the Fishes mouth, parallel to the NVN border in case a strike acft was hit where we could be in a position to do an immediate rescue. About 15 minutes before the air strikes were scheduled to end, I heard a "bandit" warning issued from a US Navy ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. The first call was garbled and all I was able to hear was 'bandits, squid, 180". I knew we were about 50 miles south of the squid reference point and asked the pilots if they heard the call. They must not have heard it clearly, because the A/C asked where it was at. I replied that it was 180 degrees out from squid. The copilot had his map of the area out and was checking the reference point when another bandit call came over the air stating, "bandits, squid, 180, 30" which placed the Migs 20 miles due north of our location. Based on it's position, it was only a matter of minutes before the Migs would be on us. When the Migs entered our vicinity, the acft commander pushed the nose over and did a power dive for the tree tops. I manned the No#1 gun and looked forward into the cockpit and noticed the vertical velocity was pegged at 6000 ft per minute and the airspeed was indicating 210kts. The Mig cap for the strike mission came over and kept the Mig on the NVN side of the border. We kept hearing the bandit warnings and were able to track the flight heading south on the NVN side of the border. They must have been launched out from Vinh, NVN, because we last tracked him from the remaining bandit calls that were made from the Navy ships. Talk about an adrenaline rush.

MOROCCAN FLOODS (John Flournoy)

Sat 6 Sep 2008
NOTE: This is in response to a picture sent in by Tom Howard

Picture brought back a bunch of great memories. Tell Tom he was right on. That was one of our birds. Some great flying down there. We had a cabin full of Moroccans that we picked up off of roof tops on one mission and just as we got the last guy in the cabin off the hoist and we were on the go at about 50 feet he looked around the cabin and dove out the door back into the water and swam back over to the house we picked him up from. Guess he didn't like helicopters.

We dropped C rations to the Moroccans on the ground that were cut off by the flood water. They had no idea how to use a church key and they were trying to bite the cans open or knock holes in them with rocks. We finally had to put a troop on the ground to give them a little OJT on the use of a church key.

I remember they put our LZ right in the middle of a high powered antenna farm. Was like landing in a spider web. I still have jungle rot on my toe nails compliments of the Moroccans showers and the flood water. Right after we returned to Spangdahlem they deployed us to Hamburg Germany for another big flood mission. The Germans gave us all a German medal for that one.

It was good to put names with faces again on the picture Tom sent. I still keep in touch with some of the Spangdahlem troops.

A INTERESTING CH-3E EXPERIENCE (Joe Ballinger)

Mon 1 Sep, 2008
NOTE: This was in response to info that Sikorsky is testing a fly-by-wire helicopter.

Sure glad I'm not flying choppers anymore! Hydraulics was bad enuf! We had a CH-3E at Hill that was to be flown down to Holloman for flyable storage in 72. I tried it twice before I went TDY back to Nam, and never made it more than five miles out. When I got back 60 days later, it was still at Hill, AND I was selected to do it again. Everything went okay to Kirtland for a RON. Then the next day, just after takeoff about five miles out, I saw the Utility pressure head for zero as the crewman came forward saying we got a helova leak. Put the gear down and popped the circuit breaker figuring screw it, I'm going to get to Holloman this time. About two-three minutes later, the Primary went for zero, as I got another yell from the back. Went to Aux and did a 180 and declared an emergency. With good sense, I would have put it down in the desert right there and now. But I didn't, and called the alert firemen to stay well clear as if I lost the last system there might be a rollover and junk flying all over and went for a roll-on the North-South runway. We made it and when I came down the steps after shutdown on the runway, the Fire Chief came up and said, "Thanks for the info, Major!" I had been stationed there in 65 and he had been the Assistant Chief who coordinated with us for airborne firefighters. When I shook his hand telling him thanks too, I also commented, "Glad to see you finally made Chief too!" Grinning he told me, "And you finally made Major!" Anyway knowing that it would be a while getting two H-3 hydraulic lines in and that Special Weapons had labs to make almost anything! So I talked it over with the Crew Chief and sent a msg requesting a one-time flight to Holloman with fabricated lines. The normal lines were for 1500 psi, the ones we had made were tested for 3000 psi. Ninety more miles the next day and we finally got rid of it. If that had of been fly-by-wire, I'd have planted it in the desert with the first failure. Gremlins in hydraulics is bad enuf, but what those ones and zeros in computer chips chose to do are beyond my imagination!

We took several CH-3E's down there and I was told they would be maintained in a dry storage hangar and runup periodically incase they were needed somewhere else. When I went down to Canton Island (South Pacific Missile Range) in Feb 74 to fly on a Lease/Bail contract for Global Associates, there were three CH-3E's there (14235, 12580 & ?). I believe they started that operation in 1972, as I know that George Martin was there at the start and brought Freddie Leibert in later. I replaced Freddie! And on an aside, as soon as I got there, I went out to the alert H-3, and gave it a shakedown! Man, it was clean! I was impressed! About a year later, my Flight Crew Chief Keegan handed me the Form with a big grin on his face. When I looked at the sign off block there was no red X, slash, nor dash. It was blank! When told him he had forgotten that block, he told me, "Its clean! All TCTO's cleared and no discrepancies!" I had never seen a helicopter like that and went out and shook it down good. I might have found a little corrosion up in the wheel well, but I sure as hell wasn't gonna bust his balloon. Later Keegan went down to Peru with me to fly Evergreens S-61 4040S, the one in the crash scene on the beach. A dammed good man at 24!

EARLY HELICOPTER LOOPING (Don Waters)

Thu 21 Aug, 2008
While I was stationed at Pope AFB in 1950 we had a pilot, Cpt. Richard P. Devine, who was being riffed and was going to make one more flight and he intended to loop the helicopter (H-5 which had converted to metal blades). He looped the bird three times. He did this where we could see it from Pope.

After he left another pilot, Capt. Pierce Myers, with one of his fellow pilots riding in the back with a movie camera was going to film the event. The aircraft used was an H-5G. I do not know whether this made the difference, but the loop that was performed scared the hell out of those of us watching.

It was not tight like Devine's loop and the image of the helicopter went out of sight beyond the hills in about a 45 degree down angle, and we were just looking for the tell tale smoke to rise, but some how Myers pulled it out and came back in and landed. Now these two gents were white as a sheet.

There was no further attempts at looping in that outfit. We got to see the filming of the loop(sic) When Myers decided he was in trouble with the loop, you could see him looking desperately for the ground. At this point the filming stopped since the guy taking the pictures figured something was wrong, and perhaps his life was passing before his eyes at this moment.

I have not heard of any one else who looped a helicopter prior to this and I did get to witness it.

SEARCH FOR NUKES (Tom Brumfield)

Mon, July 7, 2008
A B-52 and a KC-135 collided over the southeast coast of Spain and scattered some nukes about. I was on duty so I launched with medic and crew chief. The crew from Moron AB arrived first but both crews were told to remain on the scene until a Command and Control team arrived from Madrid. Most AF people are aware that three nukes were found right away--but the fourth was missing. For the next 120 days I flew in and out of "Camp Wilson" near Palomares, Spain in support of "The Search".

SPAD RESCUE (Tom Brumfield)

Mon, July 7, 2008
I arrived in DaNang in January of 1969. I missed Snake School on the way over so I had to go back to Clark AB immediately to fill that square. During my tour there were many exciting events but I had the only two actual FSK firefighting missions. One was successful and one was not. The first was a Spad who lost oil pressure right after takeoff. He made a 90/270 return to land downwind, when it looked like he would go off the end of the runway into the bay he pulled the gear up. Oh! did I mention that he had a full load of ordnance? He skids off into the infield and we deploy the FSK and start to hose down the underneath side where all the bad stuff is. We have some explosions and we get some shrapnel damage, one fireman gets a piece in his thigh the other gets blown off the wing as he is extricating the pilot, but the final result is that we get him inside and get him over to the 121st MedEvac before he knows what happened. The shrapnel damage was discovered after we shut down back at The Pad.

UH-1F EVACUATION (Tom Garcia)

Thu, July 3, 2008
Here is one I'm quite sure is true. The pilot was Ray Hoffmann who now lives in WA. Don't know the name of the co-pilot. Ray was my roommate at NKP. The mission was out of Udorn. It was the evacuation of flood victims near Vientiane, Lao. So I got the story first hand. UH-1F. Refugees in back with a Catholic priest on headset. Pilot, co-pilot in front with crew chief sitting on radio console between them. Priest reported on intercom: "I just counted how many back here, 34."

P.S. I was the one who evacuated Ray to Qui Nhon after his last (almost fatal) helicopter mission near Kontum.

PHOTO MISSION (Neil McCutchan)

Sun, 11 May 2008
I was assigned to TUSLOG Det. 84, Incirlik, Turkey, August 65 through August 67. During this time I had a 90 day TDY to Ethiopia. One of the ‘fun’ events at Incirlik was when we had to fill the cross country square for training. There wasn’t anywhere we could go so we had all the crusader castles plotted and would do a round robin taking our various crewmembers along to take pictures.

FEET WET (Neil McCutchan)

Sun, 11 May 2008
Pilot Capt. David Frasier and I were hovering over a deep water channel off MacDill giving those in the back basket pickup experience. While hovering we heard a sound similar to rapid gun fire. David said we were losing power. As co-pilot I issued the call that we were ditching in the bay. As this was being done David was able to get the helicopter over shallower water (6 feet vs. 12 or more feet). The helicopter settled in the water with the co-pilot’s side of the bubble resting on the bottom. It was lucky that the plexiglass broke and I was just able to ‘walk’ through it on the bottom where I popped the ‘water wings.’ Yes, another ’43 came out to get us but we waved it off as a boat from the base recreational dock was coming out.

HELICOPTER NIGHT RESCUE (John Holt)

Sun, 4 May 2008
Made one of the few night pickups. An F4 could not land at Ubon as a crash on the runway shut it down. The F4 headed to Udorn. I was on a night recon out of NKP and heard his call He was running out of fuel and he and his back seater were going to punch out. I was only about 20 minutes from his location. Found the crew in some jungle in some hills. Would you believe I found them with those strobe lights we were all issued. They stood out like a Xmas Tree with those lights. Hoist failed to work after going into hover. Found the closest place I could and landed and sent engineer out to look for them. After about 45 minutes he came back with both crew members without a scratch. Flew them back to NKP at about 3 pm. No one to meet us so we all went to O Club and had a few drinks and they went to the VOQ. Never saw them again.

HELICOPTER EVACUATION (John Holt)

Thu, 24 Apr 2008
This reminded me of a mission we flew in 1969 out of NKP. About 500-700 soldiers were under attack in Laos and apparently surrounded. Air America put together a mission of every available HH-3 out of NKP and Udorn and all Air America H-34's. I suspect we had around 20 aircraft, not sure. We met at NKP and were briefed by the CIA or Air America. The H-34's were the first in and they reported panic. The took off with people hanging on everywhere. When airborne they found they had the only radio man with the only radio in the group. They had to make a quick pass and force him out. I was the 1st HH-3 in. As I landed it looked orderly as the troops were lined up in formation. But the moment I came to a rest they broke formation and charged the aircraft. I advised the engineer in the back with the ramp down to start counting and when we reached the limit we were coming out of there. I looked out my side window as an officer struck one guy trying to push his way in the front door. The weapon was a butt of a pistol and it split his head open. The mechanic in the back said it was out of control so I told him we were lifting off regardless. I could barely get it into a hover and I had to take off downwind as that is the way I came in and did not take ground fire. There were a number of bodies in bags also on the aircraft. I never got an exact count but would guess we had at least 60 + crew. We dropped them off at a camp in Laos. No Americans among this group. A number of the soldiers fell off the H-34s and some were still hanging on our ramp in the HH-3 but dropped of as we came to a hover. On the way out I heard a loud bang and thump. I thought I had been hit by ground fire. When I got back to base I found a large hole about 24" round in the belly. What had happened was a stump had penetrated the bottom when I landed. After going airborne the wind stream caused it to break loose and strike the bottom of the aircraft creating the thump. That had to be one the larger Air Force helicopter operations during the war. This does not match that World Airways mission but you sure get an idea of panic on the ground.

NOTE ADDITIONAL COMMENT BY JOHN, "This was my first mission after having been shot down so I was a bit shaky to start with".

MH-53 68-10357/APPLE 1 (Mike Vandermaelen)

Fri, 11 Apr 2008
In regards to Apple 1.....I worked 357 when I was stationed at Kadena AB Okinawa, Japan from 1976 to 1978. while assigned to the 33rd ARRS . I am glad to hear she will going into a museum, lots of hard work keeping those birds flying. 38 years of service is just an incredible feat that not to many military aircraft can accomplish. What amazes me is that I met people thirty years after I got discharged that maintained the same aircraft as I did 30 years later.. cool.

JOLLY GREEN MOVIE (Hank Fannin)

11 Apr 2006
There's some old National Geographic movie scenes I've seen dozen of times on TV, showing footage of a Jolly Green Rescue. That's me doing the pick-up and Sgt. Earnie Beddell riding up the hoist with Capt. bars on his flight suit. We were in a 40 ARRS chopper but we were 21st FE's. The whole thing was staged for NG. Those mountains featured in the movie were just across the river from NKP. We had a blast doing it but all the JG FE's were upset because me and Earnie were in it.

CH-53B (Kelly Day)

8 Apr 2006
I would like to give you a little history on the six (6) CH-3B Sea Kings the AF operated for several years at Hickam Hawaii . I was stationed at Hickam in the mid 70s and was a crew chief on them. The Sea Kings first flew in 1959. The AF never contracted for nor ever took delivery of a CH-3B. The first three (3) CH-3Cs delivered to the AF starting with tail # 62-12577 (577s first flight was June 1963. I become her crew chief and flight engineer in late 1968) were CH-3Bs but were converted to CH-3Cs before they ever left the Sikorsky assembly line (at least, this has always been my understanding). The conversion incorporated a redesigned rear fuselage, loading ramp, retractable landing gear and a steerable nose wheel instead of the tail dragger wheel. In 1966 all CH3-Cs became Es with the incorporation of the APU and the T-58-GE-5 engines. (I’m rambling, aren’t I). All 6 of the CH-3Bs we had at Hickam were on loan from the US Navy. We lost one at sea due to bad weather and continued on with only 5 until we picked up our CH-53Cs. At that time we returned the Bs back to the Navy. We used the Bs to support a classified mission called “Catch a Falling Star” which was mid-air recovery of film dropped from satellites. The MC-130E Talon was primary mid-air recovery for the satellite film drop. If the C-130 missed the mid-air catch the choppers was used to locate and recover the film after it hit the water.

MAINTENANCE TALK (Phil Armstrong)

6 Apr 2006
If my memory is correct (sometime there are doubts), this was the bird we test flew at Nha Trang when they closed us up to send us to Udorn. All birds & maint. & aircrew were already at Udorn. They sent one aircraft to Udorn to replace it. After all maint.& released from FCF, we flew it to Saigon to replace the one they sent Udorn. We had to take space available MAC flights to get to Bangkok. It took us over 30 days to get out of there and it was during this time frame that the mortar attack occurred. It was pretty intense. Well over a hundred rounds. Anyway, I remember this because, the crew chief & I were talking about all Maint. that had just been done and flown to Ton San Nhut. The complete tail # should be the same as 689 mentioned in an earlier email. As soon as I find my  old records my Form 5 should put this mystery to rest.

COLD WEATHER OPS (Bob Runninger / Jim Burns)

6 Apr 2006
Ladd was a Base about 26 miles from Eielson right outside Fairbanks. I believe its called Ft. Wainright now. We lived in Quanset huts when I first got there. Damn it was cold in the mornings before we got the fire started.  And talk about having to pee in the middle of the night; we had to go outside to an outhouse. The coldest it got while I was there was 50 below. We didn't work when it got that cold but  30 below was normal operations. Sure gets cool under the rotors at that temp. When we got the H-21's we would climb up in the engine compartment while the bird was being preheated and stand back by the engine compartment while it was running to stay warm. The pilots though wouldn't come out till we got the birds all nice and cozy in the cockpit. (Bob)


Here's a small example of what I mean; Some things had not changed from when you were in Alaska to when I was there 72-75. I guess Ladd AFB was by then Ft. Wainwright, but we kept a bird on alert at Eielson AFB,  24/7,  (also supported the gunnery range out by Ft. Greeley but don't remember the name of the range) and rotated a bird to there every week from Elmendorf. We didn't have to go outside to pee, but never the less it would get just as cold as you described. Along with the temperatures not changing was the fact that the 30 below was still the break line for normal operations, anything below the 30 below line was emergency only operations, above that ... normal operations. Seems like when it was down around the 10 - 30 below range, we would load up the passengers an crew on the bird in the hanger before we opened the hanger door and towed the bird outside (except for the poor ole cold FE, who had to help with the towing ... I know, I know, sob! ... sob! ... I can hear you all crying for the poor ole FE!!). When I was with the 39th ARRW at Eglin one of my units was at Thule, Greenland, and if I am remembering correctly, their procedure was to load all the passengers and crew on board, fire up the APU and get the heater going good before they opened the hanger doors and when they returned they but the bird back in the hanger and shut the doors before they shut down the APU and heater.  (Jim)

FIRST RESCUE (WIll Davis)

5 Apr 2006
A side note I got my first save before I was even on crewmember status.  I was working with the pilots on 291, we had a ferocious beat, but we couldn't find anything wrong with the aircraft,  but I wasn't willing to let it go, I had the pilots crank it up one more time, I got under the main transmission and watched what was going on, I noticed that one of the main servos was bouncing up and down.  So they shut it down and pulled the errant servo off and found that the mounts was corroded.  So I ordered a replacement servo and I got it timed, I reinstalled it. The pilots started engines and I checked for leaks and everything settled down nice and smooth.  They decided that I should go and fly with them to check out the servo on FCF.  Everything checked out just fine as we were returning to base we got a mayday call from an A-1E pilot coming back with a shot up aircraft, so we headed in his direction, The A-1 driver kept talking how he should punch out since it was falling apart, when the engine finally quit he bailed out and we picked him up.  When we got the A-1E driver on board he noticed that we were not armed, and he said "you had better get the hell out of here," I said you bet, and we did. That was probably around March or April 1969.

ELECTRIC HOIST (Bill Crawford)

4 Apr 2006
Some of the things I remember about the hoist. I only had to use the electric hoist in the 21st on a check out training flight. I didn't have to use either hoist on any real missions, I used the 15ft ladder on one mission for an emergency exfil, the rest of the missions we were able to land. I did use the electric hoist at Tyndall in 1965 & remember that the cord to the hand held control was prone to getting tangled in the pulley on the floor. When the hoist frame was folded back into the cabin it became a real head knocker. 64-14222 had the hydraulic hoist installed just a short time before the shoot down at Maung Phine on 6 OCT 69.  My form 5 shows that I flew an CH-3C on 20 MAR 68 at Forbes AFB.  Everything after that date was on H-3E's. I never logged time on 691 so the M-79 could have been fired on 291 but I can't remember for sure. We were unloading the team into the step van & the aircraft had been shut down before the ground crew found the M-79 in the hoist panel because when it was found the van had already gone & I was outside.

GROUND FIRE (Bill Crawford)

30 Mar 2006
I really have enjoyed everyone's stories. After reading the things that others have gone through in the 21st, I feel that I had a pretty easy time of it. The only time any of the choppers that I was in got hit was after we parked at NKP & were unloading the team & one of them fired an M-79 round between Max Shiffman & myself & it lodged in the hoist control panel. Lucky that it didn't go far enough to arm, so it didn't explode.

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