I didn’t see the scene unfold, but we were getting a “running commentary” from our crew chief and medic, who was watching the young Navy Lieutenant throughout the flight. At first I guess he thought it was fun, but apparently, at least according to our crew members watching his face, the fun must have worn off pretty quickly. The lower we got, the more nervous he became, and the more we found out about what he had for lunch. My Crew Chief keyed his microphone and said, “Sir, the L-T’s eyes are getting VERY big!” After a few minutes of silence the Medic in the back piped up, “Sir, the L-T’s pupils are dilated.” Then a few minutes passed, and the Crew Chief keyed his mic again, and said “Sir, he is turning colors. Right now we have a great shade of green going!” Then the Medic said, “Sir, he’s hunting for his helmet bag!” Just as the Medic let his foot off his floor switch, the Crew Chief piped up, “SIR, WE HAVE LIFT OFF!” This phrase was followed a few seconds later with “OH SH**! He missed!” Naturally, this part of the discussion then evolved into phrases like “Dude!” “Maaaannnnn!” And my favorite, “Dude, I ain’t cleaning that up!”
Sadly, onboard a “Medevac” bird, you will not get much sympathy from a crew that has seen so much badness from real wounded, so losing your lunch hardly comes up on the radar anymore. Instead, it becomes a simple exercise in discussing who will clean it up! That particular discussion was ongoing as we topped a rise near the operating base. This is where the ride really got interesting, since we initiated our typical “circling approach” right over the Landing Zone or LZ. Now the circling approach is a maneuver where we would cross the LZ at 120 knots, pull into a tight turn within the confines of the LZ, bleed off flight speed and whatever altitude we had, right before we turn, flare, and then land. The maneuver was necessary, since the surrounding jungle area was full of people who didn’t particularly like the notion of anyone flying over them. In other words, if you strayed too far, then you would likely get a high velocity lead injection.
Regardless, with the approach, the turn is extremely tight, and as you “bleed” off the inertia, you will definitely feel that G force prior to the flare and landing. When our skids touched down, the Flight Surgeon and our other passenger literally could have been poured out of their seats. Good thing for the Flight Surgeon he had a job to handle, otherwise, like the young Navy Lieutenant, he would have been stuck cleaning up around his seat. I will say that on the return flight to his ship later that evening, they both flew with their eyes closed and knuckles white for the entire trip. Naturally, payback being that fickle lady, the Navy got their revenge on me sometime later. Unfortunately, that is a story for another day. ~ Michael S. Pauley