47. The Night I Learned to Hover (Almost) By Danny L. Pettit

As I remember, and some things from my days as the crew chief on 062 in 1968 and 1969 I don't remember, but I'll never forget the night that WO1 Mike Dzikowski, aka Mr. Ski, decided he was going to teach me to hover a helicopter. I think he had probably been to the Officers Club for quite a while and returned feeling a little like doing something really nice for someone.

I was on primary standby at the standby hooch when Mr. Ski came in and informed me that he was going to teach me to hover. Being one of the most senior crew chiefs in the gun platoon at the time I had been getting quite a bit of stick time, thanks to Mr. Bemis’ love for sitting in the crew chiefs seat and hunting sharks while we flew along the coast. Therefore I suppose that made me a good candidate for further instruction so he proceeded to build a fire in the engine.

Once he got everything on the instrument panel to his liking he picked her up six or eight feet in a nice steady hover and began telling me that he was going to teach me just as he had been taught in flight school. First he had me put my feet on the rudder pedals and slowly move the nose a few feet to the left and then a few feet to the right until I was pretty comfortable doing that (so far it's a piece of cake), then he has me get on the collective with him, and shows me how to take her up a few feet and bring her down again, all the while I'm still the primary rudder operator, if there is such a thing. I guess I did ok with that phase of my training and it was finally time to move on to the cyclic stick.

He then instructed me to very gently take the cyclic and move the ship a little to the left. So I very gently took the collective and rather quickly moved it three inches or so to the left, now for those of you who have never tried to hover before let me be the first to tell you that you never want to try that particular maneuver when you're only a few feet off of the ground. For those of you who are accomplished pilots you know what a mess I was in. As they say, for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction, and I did the first thing that came to mind and moved the stick to the right three or four inches. Now I'm really in trouble because I just keep moving the thing left and right trying to get it settled down but to me it feels like someone has a rope tied to the Jesus nut and is swinging me back and forth like a giant pendulum or something and by now I'm completely terrified and can't for the life of me figure what in the world Ski is doing and why is he letting me kill us both? When I finally looked over at him it was evident, by the way he was laughing, that he wasn't overly concerned about my flying inability.

After what seemed like an eternity he took control of the ship, and after bringing it back to a stable hover, we started again only this time he informed me to hold the cyclic as if it were a sore penis. He further tried to tell me that the cyclic was so sensitive that if while I was holding it like a sore penis that if I just thought that I wanted to move to the left that it would. Let me tell you that I took that one with a grain of salt, but what the heck after all he was the pro here. So after I had it in somewhat of a hover I decided to try it. By golly, just by thinking that I wanted to move left I did indeed move ever so slowly to the left, so I tried it to the right and it worked going that direction also.

Although I never had another opportunity to try to hover again I at least had my shot at it. So Mr. Ski if you ever read this you'll know that you gave one crew chief an unforgettable memory when you taught me to hover, well almost.

AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022