It was the summer of 1990, I was stationed at Camp Atterbury in Indiana participating in my two-week training requirement for the Army Reserve. At work one evening I met the pilot of a UH-1H Huey helicopter that also was there for his training. While we were talking, he mentioned that in the morning the crew would be flying to a nearby airport to fuel up and asked if any of us would like to go. Now I have to admit I was a bit hesitant at first, but I agreed along with a couple of friends to be there in the morning. It’ll be fun, right?
We left work that morning and walked over to the clearing where the Huey was parked and met with the crew and climbed aboard. If you’re not familiar with this type of aircraft, the Huey was the work horse during the Vietnam war. During the war, the aircraft equipped with 2.75 rockets, one on each side and .30 caliber machine guns. The aircraft had been used as a gunship to escort Army and Marine transport helicopters.
I picked the seat in the back referred to as the gunner seat and tightened down the Army issue green canvas strap. Sitting in this seat, with the door open, my boot tips hanging over the edge I felt both exhilarated and terrified! The Huey we were now sitting in had actually flown missions during the Vietnam war and several bullet holes could be seen in the cabin. I was riding in a piece of history, how awesome! The lift off was smooth and uniquely different from taking off in an airplane and the sound from the propellers was deafening! Now if you have ever ridden in a Huey or have seen any Vietnam war movies, you surely will know what I am speaking of when I say the sound of the rotating propellers are certainly not mistaken. (see video)
Once in the air, the pilots decided to test our metal, so to speak and began banking back and forth just above the treetops. I was sitting in the rear on the right and each time we would bank to the right, I would rise out of my seat just a bit, wind blowing in my hair and look over my boots at the treetops. OoohRah! Cruising at a speed of 110 knots or about 126 mph, I was shaking with excitement! For the pilots this was just another day at the office, but for me it was fantastic! The pilots were able to get one of the guys that had come with us to use the on-board barf bag and both seemed to enjoy watching him in agony as they continued banking back and forth above the trees. Mission accomplished!
This exhilarating ride continued for about 45 minutes and I could not have been happier! When we landed the crew invited us back for another flight tomorrow. Excellent! We had to go back the next day for another rush, minus one from our group, but it is a bucket list memory that has not been forgotten! If you ever get a chance to ride in a Huey, go for it, there is nothing like it!