Thursday, May 23, 2013

Flying High with Helicopters

The eighth anniversary of hurricane Katrina is fast approaching.

My wife and I have many memories and stories about how the weather changed our lives. In several ways, Katrina was as significant for me as the JFK assassination. Kennedy’s death didn’t cause me to move away from my home state.

Katrina did.

One of the nightmarish memories of the storm involves events that occurred in the aftermath.

The levee system in New Orleans failed. In addition to storm refugees and evacuees, now flood victims were arriving in Baton Rouge. Not too far from our home.  The basketball arena on campus at LSU became a huge triage facility.  

The “whop-whop” sound of helicopters constantly arriving at Tiger Stadium was a daily reminder of the tragedy that changed thousands of lives. Our house was close enough to the flight path that we could easily hear the airborne deliveries.

More than once, I looked toward where the sound seemed to be coming from, only to discover they were behind me.
It reminded me of the opening scene from the movie M*A*S*H.

Fast forward to the 1:06 mark.

My near obsession with helicopters recently joined forces with my 19th childhood (who needs only two?) and I started building plastic models again.  Hadn’t tried that in over forty years.

Last summer, I got back into flying radio controlled aircraft. I’d flown airplanes while in college and this time it’s, you guessed it, helicopters. I spent as much time repairing them after crashes as I did with them in the air. So I purchased several pieces of equipment to help.  The lighted magnifying glass and the “extra hands” with alligator clips proved handy for both hobbies.

Here are a few photos of my first model in 40 years, a Bell H-13H. Once I get the decals on, it will be a “M*A*S*H” replica. I can hear the music now.

If you have the right tools, any job is easy!

Just getting started: frame and skids.

Motor on the frame.

 Frame with cockpit interior. I was impressed with the detail.
Notice you can see the foot pedals.

 Almost done. Just needs decals.

Next up, a B-24 Liberator. It played a significant role in every theatre of World War II and I'll be writing a blog soon on a book about it. The book is The Wild Blue - The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany by Stephen E. Ambrose. Watch for it soon.


  1. Anyone who served in Vietnam as I did came to know the helicopters by the sound of their rotors "chopping" through the air and rode many hours in them. Indeed, the Vietnam veteran who served in combat engaged the enemy nearly 240 days during a one year tour as compared to fewer than 40 days for the veteran who served in WWII because the helicopter ferried the troops from one hot LZ to another. I have a lot of respect for these aircraft and the people who fly them. However, my son who has an aerospace engineering degree won't get near one. Yes, he is correct. They are a collection of thousands of precision parts flying in close formation, threatening to go their separate ways at any moment. Also, any helicopter that crash lands in water will turn turtle instantly. Still, flying in one is like no other experience in the air.

    1. Fascinating.
      Never knew of the startling discrepancy of "engagement hours" between the two wars.
      I do recall hearing that Andy Rooney got a lot of flack over related comments about VA benefits and the amount of combat duty WWII vets actually experienced.
      Thanks for the comment.