Big Ass Elk

In the post, 50 Feet, 90 Knots, I suggest that my relationship with my instructor was a good one. We spoke the same language, both smoked, and he appreciated my flying skills along with my deep respect for safety. He was a Department of the Army Civilian (DAC), Vietnam vet, and a southern Alabama good old boy. He was the only DAC instructor I asked the question “Do you still enjoy flying?” who said, “Ah, it pays the bills.” I was a little disappointed by his answer, and wondered if I would hear it again, since this was early in my flight career.

Other than his flippant response to my question, we got along great and I really enjoyed flying with him.

The DAC instructors followed our military instructors in contact. Contact was where we learned how to fly the Huey itself. Now we were in tactics. This is where we learned to fly the Army way, and the instructors where once again civilians. Just like when we were learning to first fly helicopters.

Names have been lost over time, but it’s probably best that I don’t include them in these posts.

As I said in 50 Feet, 90 Knots, all flying was done at fifty feet above the tree tops. We were learning to navigate using just the terrain and natural objects. Military thinking was that any manmade objects would not survive in combat and would not be available for navigation. We used hills, creek beds, the occasional manmade lake, and anything else that gave us a clue as to where we were. Yes, there was a lot of…”ummm, I am not sure where we are sir.”

What impressed me was how the instructors always knew exactly where we were. Like it was their back yard, and the landmarks were the red barn, or the gas station on the corner. With just a couple of hints, they had the guy in the jump seat back on course. That was the guy who did the navigating, the third wheel.

Remember, the fifth wheel is the guy sleeping in the back of the helicopter.

Well one day I was flying, and I do not remember which one of my stick buddies was navigating. Ace was discussed in 50 Feet, 90 Knots, but I don’t recall who my other sick buddy was. He was just a quiet guy who made no impression, or left a lasting memory. Ace got lost a lot, stick buddy number two was a competent pilot and navigator.

But I digress.

As I said, we were clipping along, 90 knots, over an ever changing mix of forest, open fields, and swamp. There was surprisingly a lot of swamp in southern Alabama. The scout pilots talked of using frozen chickens to troll for alligators in those swamps, but in all the hours I flew over Alabama swamp, I never saw an alligator.

I did see an elk once.

I was holding the heading the student navigator gave me, when all the sudden our instructor sits up and cranes his head around to look at something on the ground we just passed.

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