48. H Model Huey With Hydraulic Accumulator? by Bowman Roberts

The timeframe is June/July of '70, I think. I'm sorry, the names of my crew that day as long slipped out of my memory. That particular day I was assigned to support the 4th Division at An Khe and I was to report in at the HQ VIP pad. Arriving on time, which was SOP for the Demons, we were greeted by the 4th Div. Command Sgt-Major (CSM) who was very familiar with helicopter procedures. So familiar in fact, he had his own helmet and knew very well how to use the inter-com onboard.

The mission that day was to visit all of his direct report NCOs throughout the 4th Div. AO. As I recall, our first visit was at Pleiku which proved to be very uneventful flight. Our second leg was to a Firebase right on the Laos border, Northeast of Dak To. This Firebase was noted for being in the cross-hairs of Charlie's mortars and any lengthy stay on the helipad was sure to draw fire.

While enroute to the Firebase, we passed Kontum and was nearing Dak To, when my door gunner said, Mr. Roberts, there's some oil on the floor back here. My first thought was maybe the normal emergency oil carried by the crew spilled. After that notion was dispelled, I asked, What color is that oil? I no sooner got the words outta my mouth and my cyclic became veeeerrrry stiff. Never mind, it's red isn't it? Yes sir , came the gunner's reply.

Quickly I went through the Loss of Hydraulics procedures, knowing full well power would NOT be restored. Dak To was now in view between my pedals. It had a runway and POL, but nothing else. Well, I could land at Dak To and call for maintenance to fly up and fix my problem or problems, but no telling how long that would take. RON at Dak To didn't appeal much to me. Kontum, on the other hand, had a runway, POL and an Assault Helicopter Company, with maintenance facilities. It was a no brainer so I made a 180 and headed back to Kontum. I informed the crew, and of course, the CSM of my intentions. As I recall, Kontum was about 30minutes flying time at a reduced airspeed of 80 knots.

The crew-chief, which I think must have came over from the Gun Platoon, said, Mr. Roberts, when you loose your hydraulics, you only have four moves of the collective.

What!, I said. You can't move the collective after 4 moves, came his reply. Looking back over my should at the CC, I could see the fear beginning to emerge in the face of our PAC, the CSM. I could tell he was wondering just what was this damn Warrant Officer getting him into!!.

Wait a minute, I replied. This isn't a Charlie Model Huey, it's a Hotel. Did you happen to see a hydraulic accumulator in the rear fuselage today?, I asked. Unless you guys modified this bird last night, we ain't got one of those things!!! The CSM wasn't convinced, he was still thinking, Who's right. I knew man wasn't suppose to fly!!

To relieve everyone's concern, I said, Okay, I'm moving the collective. Let's count 'em. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, shall I go on? With that, the CSM looked a bit more relieved, but still not totally convinced that this dumb-ass WO wasn't gonna kill all on board.

As I said before, I don't remember the crews names, but I remember my PP was rather small in stature as was I. I said to him, you're gonna be my power assist for the collective. When I say down, help me push it down. When I say up, pull it that way. We made several practice runs on the flight to Kontum. Typical Demon team work. Worked like a charm.

I briefed everybody what to expect and what to do once we landed. I remember telling the CC that our small hand-held fire extinguisher wasn't to put out any aircraft fires, but to extinguish a burning AC and PP, in that order!

When in radio range of Kontum, I called the tower and declared an emergency and told them of my problem. One of the 57th AHC ships, stationed at Kontum, flew along side of me to offer any help.

We lined up with the active runway and began our descent. Keeping the airspeed just above translational lift, we touched down smoothly and skidded to a smooth stop right in the middle of the runway. (I wish my ole Ft. Wolters IP could have seen it. He'd be proud of how well he taught me.) Kontum emergency vehicles were surrounding us even before we stopped. Great landing Demon 68 came the radio call from the 57th ship which had been my shadow.

I began shutting down the engine and unbuckling my seatbelt and was wondering why the CC wasn't opening my door and sliding back the armor plating, as usual. I looked around and found only me and the PP still inside the helicopter, the CSM , gunner and the CC were standing about 30 feet on either side of the helicopter looking back at use like spectators at a ball game. I motioned for the CC to come over to my window, where I politely told him to OPEN THE DAMN DOOR AND SILDE THE ARMOR BACK!!

The 57th Maintenance Officer took us to the Mess Hall for coffee while they fixed our Huey. About 2 hrs. later, the Maintenance Officer came back and said, You're ready to go. A hydraulic line had chaffed and sprang a leak, loosing all of your hydraulic fluid.

The 4th Division CSM had about all the excitement he could stand for one day and said that we would make several more stops on our way back to An Khe. The Firebase on the Cambodian boarder would have to wait another day. Heck, I was looking forward to being the bulls-eye for VC mortars. NOT!!

AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022