Most of the Huey’s were only a couple of years younger than me. A few, a couple of years older than me. Some of them still bore the scars of the Vietnam War. Patched bullet holes in the floor boards or a bulkhead. But they were all very well maintained, and appeared in great condition for their age.
We were three to an aircraft for nearly all aspects of Huey training. Instruments was two to an instructor, during the simulator phase, but then I we were back to three to an aircraft. During our first flight in a Huey, I was sitting in the back.
The way we were usually arranged was this. The student getting instruction was in the right hand seat. The PIC (Pilot in Charge) position. That was the student who was going to get all the heat for anything that went wrong during the flight. Then a student sat in the jump seat. This seat was situated behind and between the two pilots’ seats. Under most circumstances you didn’t have much responsibility in this seat, but you should be paying attention in case the instructor asked for something. During low level flight, you needed to be ready with frequencies because the pilot was never supposed to lift his hands off the controls while cruising ninety knots, fifty feet of the trees.
There is a story in there for a later post.
Then the third student sat in the very back. Didn’t matter what side, or what seat position. Hell, if you were inclined, you could take a nap, and some did.
Another story for a later post.
During one flight I was sitting back there sticking my hand into the slipstream, acting like it was a wing. You know how we all did as a kid, with an open car window. Back when AC was a luxury most parents wouldn’t pay for. Tip the front of you hand up, and it floated higher. Tipped the front of your hand down, and it flew down. Up and down, up and down, until you mother yelled at you to get your hand in the car before something comes along and tears your arm off.
Well I was sitting back there doing that very same thing. Flying is great, when you’re flying, but being the third wheel…snooze. So I was entertaining myself. I was really getting into the intricacies of hand aerodynamics when I hear over the radio.
“Having a good time back there Bill.” It was the sound of my instructor’s voice.
I looked over my shoulder and my stick buddy in the jump seat was chuckling along with the instructor over my antics.
“Yes sir, just studying my aerodynamics.” I replied matter-of-factly.
My instructor shook his helmet and returned to instructing. I gave up the aerodynamics lesson and resumed looking out over the swamps and manmade lakes of lower Alabama.
But that first startup.
It was worse than the flight from Atlanta (the gateway to hell), to Dothan. It was a hot Alabama afternoon. Each of use scampered over the aircraft to show we could perform a preflight. Received our last minute instructions, and climbed aboard. Me in the back. I was excited, did my best to see what was happening between the two titanium seats and over the jump seats shoulder.
The flight instructor said. “Let’s get the fan going so we can cool it off in here.” Referring to the rotor that would spin overhead.