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Last Updated on May 04, 2012

    We do not claim or acknowledge that any of the following are true.  These flight school war stories are sent by those who attended flight school.   They do make for good entertainment if nothing else.  Also, we have received some verification of some of the information below.  (Yes, there was a Army Flight Training Post at Fort Wolters, Texas.)

All war stories begin with "There I was"


Carl L. Hess CW4 USA (Ret) 63-3W  Ozark, AL clhess@troycable.net 334-774-2643

I started at Camp Wolters on 2 December 1962.  At that time, the primary phase (including preflight) was 20 weeks long.  I only had one instructor, Southern Airways IP Fred Williams, all the way through.  All the TACís were NCOís or lieutenants.  Most of the ďobservationsĒ were done by the NCOís.  There were no WO TACís.  For the advanced phase, the cargo section of the class came to Ft Rucker where we flew the UH-1A, UH-19C/D, or the CH-34.  I was in the middle alphabetically so I flew the H-19.  Again, I only had one IP, CW2 Joe Murray, all the way through.  There was no instrument course of type for initial entry students.  My IP showed me how to tune the VOR and ADF but that was about the extent of his knowledge.

The H-19 was a big, underpowered machine with many quirks.  Although it was heavier than the UH-1, there were no hydraulics on the pedals.  The UH19-C was so under-powered the common practice was to only put around 100 pounds of fuel in one of the tanks and completely fuel the other.  For some unknown reason, we were to start the engine on the tank with the 100 pounds of fuel and then switch to the other tank prior to takeoff.

I successfully completed the course and took my final check ride with only one pink slip; for flying over the ammo dump near Knox stagefield.  However, I still did not have the required 200 hours of flight time to graduate so the remainder was to be flown solo.  As someone who had followed a very regimented life for the past 30 plus weeks, you can imagine what fun this was!  I was issued an H-19C, ran it up (from memory as we didnít use checklists in those days) got clearance and departed for the stagefield.  I entered traffic and made an approach to a landing.  Then, I picked it up, did the mandatory clearing turn, and then the engine quit!  All I could think of for the moment is that I would be washed out of flight school.  However, after completing a hovering autorotation (which I had never practiced in an H-19), I realized the aircraft was still in one piece with no damage.  It was sitting sort of crossways to the runway and the blades were winding down.  I looked over at the tower, noticed no fire trucks were on the way, the tower was not yelling at me, and I quickly switched tanks, started the aircraft and finished my training period.  Naturally, I didnít tell anyone at the time.

At my graduation, with my wings safely in place, and my IP beaming, I told him about the engine failure.  He took it very well and just kept smiling.  I was amazed he was so cool and collected as CWO Joe could get pretty excited, especially when a dumb WOC flew over the ammo dump.  Almost 19 years later, in January 1982, I returned to Ft Rucker to begin a 23 year tour as a civilian instrument IP.  Joe Murray had retired and was now a safety officer.  I was pleased to renew acquaintances and I told him how impressed I had been at his reaction when I had told him about the engine failure two decades ago.  He turned white as a sheet and said he remembered it very well but had thought I was just joking with him at the time!

posted July 23, 2011


    Flight School War stories are numerous, I heard of one where a WOC at Fort Wolters, landed on a LZ (landing zone) on top of a hill. He had to go and relieve himself, so he climbed out of the TH-55 and went to do his thing. In the mean time, because he forgot to tie down his controls, his aircraft rolled over the side of the hill. A few minutes later another TH-55 lands and this student had to go, so he climbs out and goes down the hill, the first student comes back and flies away.

    I heard another about a student who ran out of gas over the lake west of Mineral Wells, he lands in the lake, swims back to shore, gets a ride back to the heliport, grabs another aircraft and flies his hours. The aircraft did not come up missing for a couple months, by that time he was in Nam. They found it and another one in the process that was missing a year.

By the way (BTW) Remember the colors on the tires in the landing areas?


Did you ever play the game "whispering down the line" as a kid? Isn't it amazing how stories change over time as they're passed on? I direct your attention to the story currently at the top of the heap on the website:

  Flight School War stories are numerous, I heard of one where a WOC at Fort Wolters, landed on a LZ (landing zone) on top of a hill. He had to go and relieve himself, so he climbed out of the TH-55 and went to do his thing. In the mean time, because he forgot to tie down his controls, his aircraft rolled over the side of the hill. A few minutes later another TH-55 lands and this student had to go, so he climbs out and goes down the hill, the first student comes back and flies away.

 Let me put this to rest. And I can do that with authority, because my name is Stuart Oltman, and I was the Second Lieutenant student officer in class 69-16 who was flying that TH55. The LZ was approved for solo student landings. It was a pinnacle just west of Caddo, Texas - about halfway between Palo Pinto and Breckenridge. I landed to the west in the most forward third of the LZ, then frictioned the controls at flight idle and got out to lay the stone "cookie trail"  and stop marker that they'd taught us to use for backing up in confined spaces when we couldn't turn around to see what was behind.

After hovering backward to my stop marker, I decided that I needed to relieve myself. The bird was at flight idle with friction applied and the collective hook placed over the collective. For some reason, I decided to water the bushes about 20 yards to the right of the aircraft rather than just going right there at the skids - like someone was going to see me. Habits are hard to break, I suppose. Anyhow, I was about in mid-relief when one of those Texas storms suddenly started to gust. I kept to my business but wondered at the buzzing I suddenly heard. When I turned back toward the ship, I saw the tail rotor chewing into the bushes to its rear - that was the buzzing. As I watched, gusts kept hitting the TH55, and it skidded backward with each one. Freaking out, I rushed up to the bird and tried yanking open the door to climb in. But then I realized there was a chance the bird would go over the edge with me still not in position at the controls. So I grabbed the oleo struts like an idiot and tried to drag the bird forward to no avail.  More gusts, more rearward movement, until the bird's CG got aft of the hill and the tail dipped way down into the scrub oak on the downslope. That's when I knew it was finished, and I backed well away. The aircraft slid backward down the hill until the tail stinger caught on something and caused the bird to do a backflip. It then crashed inverted at the bottom.

I was in denial. I climbed down through the scrub oak and found the TH55 relatively intact but upside down, with no rotor blades, and with the collective up near the top of the canopy. Battery acid was dripping. I put on my helmet and tried transmitting a mayday without knowing if the call was getting out, then turned off the battery switch. The call was heard. They sent a flying banana to retrieve me and found me waving the tail stinger at them. There was no other student and no other TH55 involved in this accident.

As you might imagine, I suffered quite a thorough "debriefing" back at the base. I remember the exact words of the Lt. Colonel who grilled me in a small, closed room. "Lieutenent. Do you expect me to believe that an 1800 pound aircraft just got up by itself and flew backwards into the bushes?" My response - Yes sir. "That'll be all, Lieutenant. We'll let you know of our decision." The acident investigation team found the control frictions all the way on. The collective hook was not on the collective, but the four rivets holding it to the console had been ripped out, proving that the hook was on when the bird crashed. I was exonerated and went on to graduate Wolters, then went to Hunter for the second half of flight training.

Oh - let me tell ya 'bout the time my roommate in the Wolters BOQ was arrested for burglary, and I was accused as an accomplice. Nah, I'll save that one for another day.

Stu Oltman
Scottsdale, Az.
A/227AHB/1st Cav Div.  Chickenman 26 Aug '69 - Aug '70

posted July 7, 2008


The first flight school war story comes from:

Cliff White
WORWAC Class 68-18

I inverted a Huey as a student, just prior to graduation from Rucker,or so the student behind me claimed. We were a flight of 8 Hueys two stick buddies flying formation led by a student trying to land in a LZ. I was # 3, lead missed the LZ. and made a hard right turn much sharper than the flight could handle. I had the ship in a very tight turn as his turn was quickly being increased by each ship in the flight. I lost sight of # 2 and asked my stick buddy where he was, and got an answer too f---ing close. I realized the blur in front of my eyes was rotor blades of #2. Perhaps I over reacted, but I am here so who is to argue, I jerked the cyclic hard to the right and the Huey jumped all the way over nose down.

The ship behind me said he could see through the hell hole to the ground,and that we looked inverted. Helicopters were going all over trying to miss each other, all did. We were at 500 feet and by the time I got some control, that is get it back from a vertical dive and coming to some form of normal flight attitude there was a peanut field in front of me. I leveled the skids pulled pitch just in time to land very hard. Bent skids, bent tail boom, it was time for a tow truck. The flight leader and my instructor landed. When the Maj. found out we were ok he started giving me a great deal of aggravation about leaving the formation. He said we would never leave a formation in Nam.

My instructor was behind him and could see my face getting redder with each word the Maj. said, and just kept shaking his head no, he knew I was going to say something that I would regret 30 sec. after I said it. I had enough adrenaline in me to take on 3 Majors, I really just wanted to say the hell with the formation we were alive, but if I started I wouldn't of quit with that. In the end I just said "yes Sir" and finished the day filling out papers, and graduated with my class, 68-18. Very anti climatic to such an event, but better than what the end would of been if I had said what was on my mind.

Cliff White
WORWAC Class 68-18


# 2

" 666 The Devils Number "

Now that I have your attention let me relate a short story about my days in flight school. I was seemingly doing fine in flight school. I had made it through "Preflight" which is the first four weeks when all that goes on is ground school and harassment, with the major emphasis on harassment. This is the time when they find out how dedicated you are to becoming a helicopter pilot.

The next major hurdle is "Soloing", is this a word? Again I had no trouble with this phase either, although like everyone else it seemed an impossible task to keep a helicopter in the same county never mind at an obedient hover at first.

My troubles started when I figured the hardest part was over and I was actually starting to enjoy myself and think that,yes,I WAS going to be a helicopter pilot. Some of the guys were starting to get passes to the PX and getting to go down and have a beer and pizza but the TAC Officer would always seem to find enough wrong with my stuff that I wasn't one of them. Then things got progressively worse.

Soon it seemed no matter what I did I got more and more demerits and found myself on "TAC Officer Probation".  The next thing I knew I was on "XO's Probation". I had seen this happen to others and knew that once this progression started it was hard to stop!! The next step was "CO's Probation" then "Battalion Probation" then out the door!! At this point I went in to my TAC Officer's office and asked what I could do to reverse this and what exactly was I doing wrong.

Mr. Ken Wuest, my TAC Officer, informed me that he "didn't like me" and I was gone... it was only a matter of time. My roommates and some of the friends I had made, worked on my displays and made my stuff look BETTER then anyone else but it made no difference, I was still sliding down that slippery slope(or is that inclined plane?).

Then came that fateful day when it was announced there would be an inter-WOC bowling tournament. I had been on the bowling team at my college and it seemed a way to get out of the building if nothing else. Seems that Mr. Wuest was a bowler and wanted 6th WOC to do well. He took some of us over to the post bowling alley to throw some practice games and I made the team. We practiced a couple of more times and then went to the tournament. Our team was hot that day and we won the whole thing and brought home the trophy!! And I won the high series and individual trophy!!! Well life got better in a hurry!! Next thing you know I'm off probation and getting those coveted "A" passes which allowed you to go off base and go to Fort Worth and see GIRLS!!

Mr. Wuest's attitude had done a 180 and life was GOOD!! Amazing how seemingly insignificant events can alter the path of ones life......

By the way, my individual series score that won the tournament????       666

Scott Fenwick
D229th  C2/20th 1st CAV  70-71
1st Cobra Aerial Tow Team  72
WORWAC 70-3/70-5 Orange Hats


These next two stories are from a aviator to be in the 80's.   Talk about keeping the traditions up.

#3

RONN L. WATERS

WATERMELON MAN

 You lift sixteen tons
and what d'you get?
Another day older
and deeper in debt

    I was the first to solo in Class 88-12. It was the 7th of June, 1987. No clouds, no wind, visibility fifty miles. I flew with my I.P. Denis Rowe out to Hanchy stage field and landed, he got out, told me not to break the goddamn helicopter because he had signed for it and it wasn't coming out of his paycheque. So, I taxied out, took off, flew crosswind, downwind, base, final and landed; three times. I had single-handily slipped the surly bonds of earth and lived to tell about it. My face hurt from grinning. I opened my eyes.

    When I landed, Mr. Rowe stormed from the tower and met me at the aircraft, and told me to get the hell out of it. Another Instructor had come with him and took the controls while I unstrapped, trying to remember what rule I had violated while unsupervised. Mr. Row grabbed me by the collar and seat of my flight suit, carried me to the tower, and threw me into a blow-up wadding pool filled with water. Head first. Then he shook my hand smiling and said I knew you could do once you got your head outta' your butt. High praise indeed.

    Twenty minutes of flying and I was done for the day. I had just conquered gravity and cheated death, and now I had to sit and watch every else fly. Only one other guy soloed about an hour later. So, I sat around, wet. Fortunately, being the beginning of summer in Alabama, it was already in the mid nineties. Then since the relative humidity was around 95%, I sat around hot and wet.

    Finally after everyone had had their flights and were heading home Mr. Rowe told me I was going to fly him back to the field to get full ninety minutes I was being paid for. After take off, he said he wanted to show me steep approaches and take offs from a confined area. This meant flying in and out of small clearings. Landing on an asphalt runway was one thing but I was a little unsure about landing in holes in the trees.

    Around Ft. Rucker there are hundreds of clearings, just for this sort of thing. But, at certain times of the year, these ad hoc LZs become wild watermelon patches. It was a matter of prestige for my I.P. to have the first student to solo in the class. A credit to his genius, not mine. And, as part of the Nobles Oblige, he was going to bring watermelon for all the other IPs. And I was going to help.

    We landed and took off from three or four “LZs” before we found any watermelon. When we did he took the controls and said Don't ever try this yourself, pitching the little two seater well past the recommended angle of bank and dropped into the LZ so fast my helmet bumped the canopy. To slow the forward momentum, he pulled the nose up beyond the tops of the trees and kicked the rudder pedals making the trees lurch away up and to the left. Thirty seconds ago I was flying and we were above the trees, now we were on the ground below the trees. As he rolled the throttle down to the idle stop, he cautioned again, never to try that myself. I nodded, trying to remember how to do it when I got to fly solo again.

    There were only one watermelon ripe, so I cut the vine with my survival knife, and we were off to the next field. The next field was almost too small to land in, but from the air we could see five, maybe six good sized watermelons ripe enough. Because the LZ was so small, our approach had to almost vertical. This also meant that to take off, we would have to climb straight up to about eighty feet before we would clear the trees. Once on the ground, I got out and picked six or seven watermelons, all weighing at least twenty pounds each. Since no more would fit in the already cramped cockpit, I strapped in and readied for take off.

    About Density Altitude: Density Altitude is a combination of Barometric pressure, Temperature, and Humidity. High temperature and high humidity make for a high density altitude. This means the air is thinner than is standard. When the air is thinner, engine performance is affected and there is less potential lift available. For airplanes, this would necessitate a longer take off roll. For helicopters, this limits the amount of weight that can be lifted.

    Being that I weighed in at about 180, and my IP at fifty pounds better, we were already rather close to Max. Gross Allowable with a full gas tank. We had burned about 1/4 tank so far, but took on about a hundred pounds of produce. These factors, in combination with the outside air temperature didn't seem important until about twenty feet below the tops of the trees. Then they became very important. As we struggled aloft, me holding on to the watermelon and Mr. Rowe swearing, we made it to about sixty feet when the Main Rotor RPM began to drop. Like the stone we would become shortly. When Rotor RPM drops, it means the blades are not creating sufficient lift to make the helicopter fly. To correct this the first response is to ad power and blade pitch, but this only aggravates the RPM bleed off. The best thing to do is drop the nose and pick up forward air speed. That's fine when you have 200 or even 100 feet to use, but in a tight confined area such as this a vertical take off is the only way out.

    Back on the ground, I recommended leaving some of the watermelons behind. Mr. Rowe, told me that was not an option; not in those words, but the blow I received on the top of my helmet said roughly the same thing. Next I suggested letting the engine run until we burnt off enough fuel to get out. Same answer. I stopped making suggestions.

    Mr. Rowe remembered a road just to the north of the clearing. He said he would take the aircraft too the road and I would walk out to meet him, but to wait until he was clear of the trees before leaving. After three attempts, my IP set the aircraft down and motioned for me to come over. He asked if I had any other recommendations. Wisely, I thought, I replied no. For my candor I was rewarded with another thump on the head. I should have been wearing my helmet.

    Mr. Rowe said I should try to fly it out since I weighed less, and if I couldn't do it I would carry the watermelon to the road for pick up. Without another word between us, I strapped in and rolled on the throttle and faked the before take off checks, which I couldn't remember. Slowly increasing the RPM and pulling up on the collective and correcting with the pedals, the aircraft became light, then wobbly, then airborne. This was not like hovering at a stage field; the ground was uneven, there was grass swirling in the rotor wash and I was staring at a wall of pine trees. When hovering, the idea is to pick a spot on the horizon as a reference point. I had a tree much too close for piece of mind. Not having an adequate reference point, I mearly closed my eyes and pulled in the power.

    Once above the trees, the aircraft reacts to the wind, causing the helicopter to turn into it like a 1600 pound weather vane. Now, to find the road and actually land on it. Well, this should be easy, roads look a lot like runway, right? Well yes and no. Runways don't have telephone wires across them or cars on them. For very good reasons too.

    I sighted the road and flew towards it. The only way I could land was by doing a traffic pattern first, so I flew the little square, and lined up on the road. At first I thought should I land in the middle or on the right hand side. Or land and pull over to the curb. This was not covered in ground school. As I was about to touch down, I noticed the power lines and ducked under them, bouncing and skidding on the asphalt. Also, in ground school they never mentioned who has the right of way, a car or a helicopter. Since they had a horn, I figured the car did so I yanked on the collective, sending me up and sideways. I was so rattled, I dropped the aircraft back to earth just as my IP came through the bushes. The car had already disappeared out of sight , so the bad landing became my fault.

    We returned to Cairns Army Airfield as the other were getting their final critiques. Normally an overdue aircraft was cause for great wailing and gnashing of teeth, but since we had watermelon, all sins were forgiven. Nothing was said about the mishap with the car, and the damage to the skids was put down as run-on landing practice. Mr. Rowe did present me with my solo wings and wrote in my log book Candidate Waters did this day perform solo and unaided flight in the TH-55a Helicopter not once but twice.


#4

THE CANNON

RONN L. WATERS

    One aspect of living on a military post that affects everyone regardless of rank or station is the twice daily firing of the post cannon. It is often called the "General's Cannon" as it sits, more often than not, in front of either his headquarters or his residence. Every day, as the flag is raised and lowered the cannon is fired. In this way, everyone on post will know that the flag is in motion, and needs to be saluted. If you are driving a car, you are to stop, face the sound and render the proper salute.

    While this gesture is patriotic, it made for a mad rush towards parking lots and then off post; at much high than posted or prudent rates of speed. Both the Daleville and Military police were known to ignore potential speeding during this time period.

    At Ft. Rucker, the cannon is at the edge of the parade ground in front of the HQ . Next to the General's cannon is the post flag pole. Perched atop the flag pole is a ten inch brass sphere containing, tradition holds, one wooden match and one round .45 cal. ball ammunition. These are to be used in the event of the post being overrun and captured; the match to burn the flag so that the colors could not be captured. The single bullet is for the soldier who burns the flag, in order that he may dispatch himself to avoid capture. However, the Colt model 1911 .45 caliber automatic has long since gone the way of the caisson horse and campaign hat, having been replaced by the Baretta 9mm. This point is however moot, in that there is no ax or ladder near enough to the flag pole nor any mention of how a soldier is to retrieve said bullet and match.

    The Parade ground, the flag pole and the cannon belonged in a personal sense to the general, but, their up-keep was the responsibility of the Alpha company WOCs(Warrant Officer Candidates). It was their solemn duty to raise the flag, polish the cannon and paint the rocks in front of the Generals HQ. A color-guard was formed twice a day to attend to the flag and once a week to the other two. Color-guard was intended to be made up of the most squared away or "strack" WOCs, as befitting such an important detail. However, since every WOC of the color-guard was awarded at least four merits, it was usually made up of those who needed as many extra merits as possible, rather than those who already had earned them by being squared away. Included was at least one Candidate who knew what was supposed to happen. This was mainly to prevent anyone from dropping the flag or wondering off. Color-guard was worth at least two merits, plus it showed the TACs that you were "highly motivated" and worth retaining, at least one more day. This being the case, I was on color-guard almost every day for six weeks (and was still able to accumulate the highest number of demerits ever for a graduating candidate. There is a small plaque attesting to this at Ft. Rucker).

    Except when polishing the cannon, WOCs were not to be found within ten feet of it. To do so meant instantaneous elimination. One morning I asked the Captain of the gun, if it was because they were afraid that the WOCs would mutiny and turn it on our officers as they had at the Bastille. He felt that my doing twenty push-ups would sufficiently explain the Army's logic in leu of a drawn-out explanation. However, when I admitted that I was still a bit fuzzy on the concept, we both found that my doing one hundred push-ups enabled me to see their logic much more clearly.

    After being on medical-hold for a few weeks I became assigned to the company supply Sgt. and would fill in for him if he had to leave the office. It was easy work and a veritable treasure trove for any one with and enterprising eye. After ten years, I still have boxes of unused skillcraft pens. Like most items in the Army world, pillows are tightly controlled. However, there were hundreds of pillows that had been deemed un-serviceable but not disposable. Like the Resses cup; the combining of pillow and cannon would be greater than the sum of its parts.

    The following Monday morning I awoke early for "personal physical training.". That way I would have a reason to jog past Post Head Quarters with out looking out of place. With the parade ground darkened, dawn and it's attending WOC's, still thirty minutes away, I removed the pillow from under my sweats and stuffed it in to the cannon's muzzle. I then jogged on out the Daleville gate and down to Hardees' for a coffee and sweet roll. From the dinning room at Hardee's I had an unobstructed view across the parade grounds towards the flag pole.

    As if part of some grotesque Medieval-clock works, the Captain of the gun appeared as the WOC Color guard walked the 122 steps of the gravel path leading to the base of the flag pole. Even though he had done this hundreds of times, the Captain of the gun checked his watch. The WOC-IC (Warrant Officer Candidate in charge) didn't have to; As a WOC, you were required to know how many steps were involved and how many seconds required to raise, lower and fold the flag.

    With the care required of neurosurgery, the WOC's attached the flag to the halyard and raised the flag. At the moment the flag begins moving, the Captain of the gun fires the gun.

    The sight was awe inspiring; the "General's lawn" lightly dusted with a fifty foot arch of feathers while the WOC's raised and secured the flag. It wasn't until the Captain started screaming that any of the WOC's realized what had happened and that they would somehow be held responsible for it. It wasn't until someone wet themselves attempting not to laugh at the Captain for screaming, that they all started to fall down with hysterics. Of course, this made the Captain even angrier and his ordering the Candidates to do push-ups for laughing just made it worse. Eventually the WOC's were sent back to their company area and the Captain was reassigned to the DMZ in Korea. The feathers weren't picked up until after the M.P. 's had come out and assessed the scene of the crime. They thought it was funny too.

    In the course of the investigation a complete inventory of all pillows belonging to all Candidates was ordered. We were assembled in front of our barracks, everyone holding their issued pillows at arm's length while our Training Officers counted noses and pillows. The offending solider would be found, punished and sent to the DMZ for an undetermined length of time.

    They never found that soldier and no one ever admitted to it, despite the promise of clemency. My Training Officer, CW-2 Merille did pull me aside several times to tell me that he didn't want to know anything about it. I told him that I felt this was wise, as it would only upset him.

Flight School War Stories - Page 2

Flight School War Stories - Page 3


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