I recently finished reading Ernie Stephens’ article concerning aerial sniper fire ("Delivering Fire," February 2007, page 66). I have some background in the area and wanted to share a few thoughts.
I fly HH-60Hs for the U.S. Navy. While on cruise, we worked with U.S. Marine Corps designated marksmen, employing them in an aerial sniper role to shoot out the outboard engines and any hostiles on boats in the control of the Abu Sayaff terrorist organization. We would practice from a 70-ft hover with a target at 100 yd. The target was a standard-issue ammo can attached to floats, which approximated an outboard engine pretty well. A marksmen was a step up from a rifleman, but not a full sniper. Those guys had no problem hitting that ammo can and could usually hit chem lights floating in the water. I’m not saying that our aircraft, pilots, or shooters were better than the police department resources, but accurate fire from a helo can be done.
Lt. Justin McCaffree
Helicopter Anti Submarine Sqdn. 10
I could not agree more with Ernie Stephens. I currently fly Black Hawks in the National Guard, and am a U.S. marshal. I don’t think that you will find any agencies arming their helicopters anytime soon.
Harford County, Md.
I am a retired CW4, former scout pilot and instructor pilot. Now I’m with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. We are flying two OH-58A+ birds we got from the U.S. Army.
I had three cases of loss of tail-rotor effectiveness in my Army flying days. The first was while wearing night-vision goggles (the old style) flying an OH-6. We were flying in the maneuver area of Fort Knox, Ky. As we flew up the side of a hill and turned to the right at the top, the bird snapped right. I immediately dumped the nose and flew out of it down the hill. No problem. Luckily, I had been qualified in the OH-6 by some Vietnam scout pilots. Then there was no loss of tail-rotor effectiveness, only the "Hughes Tail Spin."
The second time, I was an instructor pilot in D Troop, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas. The Army had just come out with the new emergency procedure for the rotation. You were to hold a stable hover at 3 ft 90 deg left of the wind and relax pressure on the pedals. As the bird began to rotate, you were to perform a hovering autorotation.
I had my commander out for an evaluation ride. He was a Slick and Cobra pilot in Vietnam. We practiced the new procedure at Gray Army Air Field a few times, then headed into the maneuver area. We shot a couple of pinnacle approaches to a stock pond dam. That’s all we had at Hood.
I told the commander we would head north to the creek bed and do a little nap-of-the-earth flying. The major flew northbound at about 50 deg and 40 kt. The wind was a left quartering headwind. As we neared the drop-off to the creek, I told him to turn right and get ready to drop in the creek bed. As he started his right turn, the bird snapped to the right. We did two complete 360-deg turns and the major hadn’t done anything yet. As the bird started the third 360, I took the controls, dumped the nose and flew out of the spin downwind. Again, no problems, only the shit scared a little. When we both calmed down, he asked, "What the hell was that?" I said, "That was what we just practiced back at Gray." His reply was, "That emergency procedure is worthless!"
The last time was in Korea, when a captain began his approach to our squadron pad up north. The bird started to shudder a little and I hit the cycle and told him to go around. The spin hadn’t started and I wasn’t going to let it.
While at Fort Hood, I was the maintenance officer for the scout platoon and the instructor pilot. On one of the flight maneuvers, you were to fly forward, sideways and backward to check control rigging, etc. You were supposed to stop rearward movement by forward cyclic. I didn’t. I would relax pressure on the pedals and let the bird begin its rotation. As it passed through 90 deg, I would dump the nose and fly out of the turn. In other words, I was initiating loss of tail-rotor effectiveness. All this was before I flew with my commander and his spin. I guess I did my practice loss of tail-rotor effectiveness through my maintenance test flights. Maybe it’s a good way to show a student what happens and how fast it happens. Maybe I’m just lucky. If I am, it does work and I’m still around and haven’t had one since Fort Hood.
Jeff "Fuzzy" Fozard
Benton County Sheriff’s Office
Regarding your recent story on MD Helicopters, it takes more than hiring managers to make a company fly ("Learning As You Go," April 2007, page 20). I worked for MD when it was Hughes Aircraft Co. as a logistics engineer for 18 years in the spares department. It will take time for MD to get on its feet and be the company it used to be.
Former MD Helicopters Logistics Engineer
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