I am the wife of an Apache Longbow aviator who fought in and around Karbala in Iraq on the fateful night of March 23, 2003, when most of the Apaches involved sustained damage from ground fire.
Regardless of the bad press this aircraft and the operation on that night received, we won. My husband is here today, as are all of the other men and women who fought that battle. Any troops that were in danger that night were rescued and are home.
I am eternally grateful to the bravery shown that night, and the skill of the pilots. For most, this was their first taste of combat. They proved their skill. They survived. To me, that is the bottom line. They did an incredible job.
I am writing in response to Douglas Nelms' article on helicopter history ("In Days of Yore," February 2004, page 50). While I greatly enjoyed the look back at helicopter history, I found a glaring omission. How can you write an article on the history of rotor-wing flight without mentioning Stanley Hiller Jr.?
From my research, I concluded that there were the big four that were all working to conquer vertical flight in those early days: Igor Sikorsky, Frank Piasecki, Arthur Young and Stanley Hiller Jr. The thing I find most intriguing is that Hiller was the only one of these four out on the West Coast, somewhat isolated from the other inventors and their shared experiments.
Reading your article about the history of helicopters, I noticed a statement that is not quite accurate. To my knowledge, the FW61 has to be classified as a helicopter and not an autogyro. Though the propeller mounted in front gave it the appearance of an autogyro, it did not deliver any substantial thrust and was installed mostly for engine cooling.
Besides, the 1938 presentation by Hanna Reitsch could have never been given using an autogyro, which-unless it is directed into a very strong headwind-does not have the ability to hover.
It was also somewhat disappointing that none of the Flettner helicopters built during World War II was mentioned in your article. These may not have been the most elegant machines but surely played an important enough role to be worth being mentioned.
Stanley Hiller was, indeed, one of the great pioneers. He designed and built his first helicopter, a coaxial, rigid-rotor "Hiller-Copter," when he was just out of his teens, and with no support or feedback from the other helicopter pioneers who were all developing their helicopters on the East Coast.
His major success came with the U.S. Army's use of the OH-23 Raven during the Korean War. It was also the helicopter, as the TH-23, in which hundreds of young Vietnam-era pilots trained at Fort Wolters, Texas.
As for the Flettner helicopter, Anton Flettner was also a pioneer, developing the first "egg beater"-type helicopters.
The Flettner 282 was used on board German ships during World War II to protect convoys. Unfortunately, space did not permit discussions on all the early pioneers of the helicopter industry.
Oil Rigs vs. Night Vision
One of the biggest caveats of operating from brightly lit oil rigs at night is the loss of night vision, which, sadly, is time-consuming to accumulate.
The blazing lights make approaches to the helidecks in dark-night conditions seem closer than actual, thus, making for slower-than-normal approach speeds. One trusted aid should be mandatory on the deck-GPI, the only visual aid not influenced by outside conditions.
Aircraft-carrier-type azimuth and elevation visual indicators would, of course, be the icing. Pilots should not hesitate to hand over controls when disorientation sets in, because dark-night conditions at low heights makes disorientation set in very rapidly.